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The challenges facing the flower industry have changed throughout the last 60 years, and with these changes, AFE has redirected research efforts adapting to the needs of the community that we serve. As opportunities developed from these challenges, AFE supported research to enhance product quality, share best practices, and improve profits leading to a more successful floral industry. Many projects have been funded at universities and colleges across the U.S. through the years. Results from these projects have led to new production practices, postharvest & shipping procedures, reduced losses from pests & diseases, and improved longer lasting flowers. 

AFE funded research has transformed the floral industry as we know it today and resulted in improved quality of flowers reaching consumers.

Let’s take a look at AFE-funded research focuses and achievements decade by decade:


  • Enhancing postharvest quality of cut flowers
  • Optimizing shipping and handling of cut flowers
  • Development of industry grades and standards for cut flowers
  • Acclimatization of potted foliage plants

Research Achievements 11980’s

  • Production and handling practices to extend the shelf life of potted flowering plants
  • Testing and establishment of chain of life criteria for commercial potted plants
  • Optimization of greenhouse environment to enhance plant growth and development and reduce stem elongation (DIF)
  • Reducing ethylene damage to cut flowers and potted plants
  • Effective pesticide application programs for insect
  • and disease control (mites, leafminer, whitefly, Pythium, Botrytis)
  • Development of integrated pest management strategies in floriculture
  • Evaluation of biological materials for insect control
  • Use of high intensity lighting for flower production
  • Evaluation of various methods to conserve energy in greenhouses
  • Development of a model for understanding branching in poinsettias
  • Avoiding heat delay of potted chrysanthemums
  • Improving productivity in retail florists’ outlets
  • Dermatological problems of flowers
  • Breeding and development of new Alstromeria and Tuberose varieties


  • The role of flowers and plants in the bereavement process
  • New potted crops for commercial production
  • Identification and control of tomato spotted wilt virus in floral crops
  • Innovative techniques using temperature and light quality to control plant heights in floriculture crops
  • Developing techniques for control of tomato spotted wilt virus
  • Production and post-production practices affecting the retail and consumer performance of flowering potted plants and potted bulbs
  • Development and implementation of IPM strategies in floriculture
  • Human resource management practices in florist production firms
  • Breeding of geraniums which are resistant to Botrytis blight
  • Integrating control of Botrytis and powdery mildew in a greenhouse crop
  • Regulation of ethylene production during postproduction handling of flower crops
  • Evaluation of current postharvest handling practices on domestic and imported fresh cut flowers
  • Does being around plants reduce people’s perceptions of physical discomfort?
  • Evaluating methods for control of thrips and leafminers

Research Achievements 22000’s

  • New flowering potted plant development
  • Developing production practices to increase longevity of flowering potted plants
  • Enhanced handling practices for enhanced quality and longevity of domestic and imported cut flowers 
  • Genetic transformation of petunia for delayed leaf and flower senescence
  • Improving floral scent production in flowers
  • Thrips, whitefly, and tomato spotted wilt control systems 
  • Control and management of Fusarium, downy mildew, tomato spotted wilt disease and Pythium in floral crops 
  • Development of the consumer floral tracking program 
  • Development of ethylene antagonists for ethylene control of floral crops 
  • Postharvest handling procedures for specialty cut flowers
  • Effective use of microbial inoculants for the suppression of soilborne pathogens in greenhouse crops
  • Vegetative cutting post-harvest packaging: improving cutting performance and longevity through modification of the post-harvest environment
  • Causes and control of cold-storage-induced bud necrosis in oriental hybrid lilies
  • Improving thrips control through better monitoring and timing of pesticide applications
  • Cut flower postharvest – Manipulating preharvest factors to maximize vase life and developing handling procedures for specialty cut flowers
  • Evaluating the appeal of biodegradable packaging to floral consumers
  • Improvement of cold and drought stress tolerance of Petunia


  • Preventing powdery and downy mildews from ruining flower crops
  • Evaluation of pesticide and biological control of insects and diseases
  • Providing practical solutions to increase fresh cut flower quality and vase life
  • The effects of longevity information and guarantees on consumer preferences for cut flowers
  • Silicon nutrition in flower crop production: Potential for increasing rooting, improved postharvest performance and decreased disease incidence
  • Optimizing banker plant systems for insect control in floriculture greenhouses
  • Innovative packaging technologies to enhance the quality of fresh cut flowers
  • Utilization of ultraviolet-C (UV-C) irradiation on ornamental plants for disease suppression, growth regulation, and extended postharvest longevity
  • Development and evaluation of various biochars as aggregates for increasing substrate pH stability
  • Managing Pythium species in floriculture irrigation water
  • New and innovative ethylene control products for flower crops
  • Use of beneficial microbes to enhance plant growth decrease disease severity and improve stress tolerance in ornamentals
  • Use of LED lighting for flower crop production
  • Innovative control and management measures for thrips
  • Use of UV light for control of thrips in greenhouses
  • Identifying the potential for using environmental control of Botrytis in flower production facilities
  • Use of biological control measures for Botrytis
  • Developing methods for use of pre-plant dips and guardian plants for thrips control

2020’s and Beyond

  • In the first two years of this decade, projects focused on sustainability, artificial intelligence, care & handling, new insect & disease management, and more are currently underway. See AFE’s Currently Funded Research.
  • AFE will continue to lead the way to success for the floral industry through projects addressing advances in technology and critical industry needs


Support the Continued Advancement of the Floral Industry through Research!

More of AFE’s research achievements and past work can be found on our 60th Anniversary page. Please consider making a contribution to support AFE’s research and other industry programs. It is through the engagement and participation of industry members that we are able to continue to support new research and increase the overall sustainability of our industry.

The Endowment actively engages with the industry’s suggestions about critical needs and solutions to nagging problems. AFE can help YOU! Have suggestions or need information on specific problems? Contact AFE’s Research Coordinator, Dr. Terril A. Nell (