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Researchers take hibiscus efforts to commercialization
Date:7/11/2012

VERNON - Commercialization of winter-hardy hibiscuses from the Texas AgriLife Research program at Vernon could become a reality within the next year, according to Dr. Dariusz Malinowski, Texas AgriLife Research plant physiologist and forage agronomist in Vernon.

The hibiscus flower project got its early start about six years ago as a hobby at the homes of Malinowski, his coworker Dr. William Pinchak, AgriLife Research animal nutritionist, and Steve Brown, Texas Foundation Seed Service program director.

But the commercialization effort began when it was added to the Vernon research program's strategic plan covering non-traditional or under-utilized crops that have value because of drought tolerance.

"Three years ago we decided to go large scale and evaluate many more breeding lines than we could do in our backyards," Malinowski said. "Right now there are about 6,000 plants growing in our plots, different crosses, from which about less than 100 have a commercial value."

The team, which also includes Dr. Yves Emendack, post-doctorate research associate, and Shane Martin, technician, has nurtured the 6,000 plants through the dry spells and high heat, Malinowski said.

They plant seeds from selected breeding plants in search of new types of flowers, leaf shape, leaf color, flower color or combination of colors, he said. Most of their new hibiscus lines are interspecific hybrids among several winter-hardy hibiscus species.

And they are reaching their goals, one by one.

"One of the main goals of the program is to create a blue-flowering winter-hardy hibiscus," he said. "We succeeded in 2010 to have a plant for the first time with flowers with bluish tint. Unfortunately, the bluish tint was visible only in the shade or on overcast days. In full sun, it was still purplish."

A true blue flower pigment does not exist in the winter-hardy hibiscus species, but through crossing breeding lines with purp
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Contact: Dr. Dariusz Malinowski
dmalinow@ag.tamu.edu
940-552-9941
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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