US (FL): UF scientists help thwart disease that can ravage the popular gerbera daisy

Gerbera daisies are popular worldwide for their wide array of brightly colored flowers. They also make great plants for the garden, and their blooms yield long-lasting cut flowers. Many newlyweds use cut gerbera flowers to decorate their wedding ceremonies.

Gerbera daisies also are increasingly used as garden, bedding, patio and indoor plants. Cut flower gerberas in the United States generated a wholesale value of $32 million in 2015. Many greenhouse growers and nurseries grow gerberas as part of their business.

They’re so important that University of Florida scientists are trying to find out how to breed gerbera daisies that can resist a ruinous disease known as powdery mildew. It’s the plant’s most common and devastating disease.

“When gerbera plants and flowers contract powdery mildew, growers usually rely on repeatedly spraying pesticides to suppress the disease,” said Zhanao Deng, a UF/IFAS environmental horticulture professor and plant breeder. “But there are few options for gardeners and consumers except seeing their beautiful gerbera flowers rapidly becoming unsightly.”

Deng and Krishna Bhattarai — who at the time was a doctoral student in the department of environmental horticulture at the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences — led a study on the topic.

In the newly published UF/IFAS study, a research team used RNA sequencing to find genes that scientists believe will help breed more resistance to powdery mildew in gerbera daisies.

Click here to learn what they found.

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