Now, geraniums that won’t make you sneeze

August 31st, 2012 - 4:46 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 31 (IANS) Scientists have developed a strain of geraniums that would be completely harmless to allergy sufferers and pose no risk to natural varieties of the plant because they produce no pollen.

The new strain would be a boon for those who spend long hours tending to these plants, which produces streaming eyes, an itchy throat and bouts of sneezing. The new strain will also generate more brightly coloured and smaller flowers and leaves, with a greater number of branches and leaves than the normal geranium.

The new strain of the flower is also engineered to live longer than usual. Leaves of the new variety will remain green for almost four times longer than natural ones when detached from the plant and left in dark and wet conditions, the journal “BMC Plant Biology” reports.

Pelargoniums, commonly called geraniums, have been grown in Europe since the 17th century and have been selectively bred to produce an enormous variety of leaf and flower shapes, scents and flowering patterns, according to the “Telegraph”.

Researchers modified a type of bacteria to carry two genes which would delay ageing and block pollen production in the plants. The engineered DNA was injected into plant cells by the bug, where it became a part of the genome.

Researchers from the Instituto de Biologia Molecular y Celular de Plantas in Spain, wrote, “We introduced two new traits in pelargonium zonale, one to produce long-life plants and the other to produce male sterility.”

“Engineered male sterility would be especially useful to eliminate pollen allergens and to produce environmentally friendly transgenic plants carrying new traits by preventing gene flow between the genetically modified ornamentals and related plant species,” the researchers said.

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