Glow in the dark plants: light in the dark made real

21. 02. 2024 | Natalie Bezděková

Scientists have spent nearly 40 years trying to achieve this achievement. They’ve developed plants that glow in the dark, similar to those in the movie Avatar. Despite the relatively low price tag, this achievement will mean millions in revenue for the startup.

In the opening video of the article, you can see the first ornamental plant that glows in the dark – a genetically engineered petunia. It’s easy and safe to grow, and although it looks like an ordinary plant by day, it lights up like a firefly in the evening, called the Firefly Petunia.

Light Bio, a biotech startup from the United States, has launched the innovation, received permission from the Department of Agriculture to sell it, and plans to expand sales to other countries. The plants are available for $29 and a batch size of 50,000 will be available in April, bringing in sales of over $34 million in the first month of sales in the US.

The first glowing ornamental plants, although not of American origin, come from Russia. The method behind their creation was used by 2020 biotech startup Planta in collaboration with the Russian Academy of Sciences, the UK’s MRC and Austria’s ISTA. The start-up Light Bio then commercialised the technology and extended it to houseplants.

Experiments to create luminous plants date back to the 1980s. In 1986, scientists created a glowing tobacco plant, but the radiation was weak and the plants required special care. Now they are using genes from a fungus that produces its own caffeic acid and enzymes for light, and applying them to petunias that produce light entirely on their own.

The new glowing petunia is not demanding of special care, but it needs plenty of sunlight and nutrients to shine at its best in the dark. its organic process depends on metabolism and can be boosted by, for example, the growth hormone-releasing peel of a banana.

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Author of this article

Natalie Bezděková

I am a student of Master's degree in Political Science. I am interested in marketing, especially copywriting and social media. I also focus on political and social events at home and abroad and technological innovations. My free time is filled with sports, reading and a passion for travel.


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