A spray co-developed by a University of Alabama scientist increases plants’ tolerance of cold temperatures by several degrees.
The spray, which is not yet commercially available, can improve plants’ cold tolerance between 2.2 and 9.4 degrees Fahrenheit, depending upon the species, according to Dr David Francko, a professor of botany at the university who co-developed the spray.
Research results indicate that the spray, which the developers have named Freeze-Pruf, is effective on a variety of plants, including palms, tropical houseplants, bananas, citrus plants and flowers. Commercial growers, including those growing edible bananas in south Alabama, would benefit from the longer growing season that a more cold tolerant plant would provide.
Francko, who developed the spray along with Kenneth Wilson, Quinn Li and Alejandra Equiza, all from Miami (Ohio) University, believe that the spray would also appeal to gardeners looking to protect flowers from a late frost.
A patent application on the product, a mixture that combines five ingredients in a water-based spray formula, was filed earlier this year. The inventors are working with UA’s Office for Technology Transfer on the possibility of licensing the product to a company for commercial production or, alternatively, forming a UA spin-off venture to commercialise it.
'Each ingredient has a different function, but when you put them all together you get an effect that is larger than any single component, alone,' Francko said. 'It’s non-toxic, it’s cheap, and the idea is to apply it once per season.'
'There are a number of existing products designed to improve cold tolerance,' Francko said, 'but the best that is out there gets you about 1 to 2 degrees centigrade, or 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit, of freeze protection.'
And the existing sprays, Francko said, typically protect plants in weather only as low as the mid to upper 20s Fahrenheit. 'Our spray works all the way down to below zero Fahrenheit, depending on the plant you’re working on,' he said.