Are Impatiens About to Make a Comeback?

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Could we again soon be seeing beautiful garden impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) in our home gardens? Source: plantslive.in

If you’re one of the many gardeners who have bemoaned the loss of the garden impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), driven from the market in about 2013 (earlier in some areas) by a pernicious and incurable disease, impatiens powdery mildew or IMP (Plasmopara obducens), there is now hope.

(Read more about the disappearance of the garden impatiens from the market here.)

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This is one of the disease-resistant impatiens being used to bring back the garden impatiens. Source: www.growertalks.com

According to GrowerTalks, a professional magazine for greenhouse growers, a solution has been found and it’s only a question of time before the impatiens makes a comeback. A highly disease-resistant form of garden impatiens has been found and breeding is now underway to reintroduce it to the market, hopefully in 2020.

What Happened

The discoverer of the resistant variety, Ruud Brinkkemper of PanAmerican Seed, is not saying where the resistant gene came from (it’s a “professional secret”) – whether it was a known gene or one that showed up recently by mutation -, although he is insisting that it was found in I. walleriana itself (there was no need to “import it” through crossing with another species) and that gene manipulation has nothing to do with it. In other words, the resulting plants will not be GMOs. Instead, the “new garden impatiens” will be pure I. walleriana.

However, the recent genotyping of I. walleriana’s DNA, that is, the sequencing of all its genes, done by PanAmerican’s parent company, Ball Horticultural Company using the expertise of KeyGene, a specialist in genotyping, is a big part of the plant’s return. It’s now possible to know quickly which impatiens seedlings carry the resistance gene marker and thus to use them for hybridization. And to just as quickly eliminate those that don’t carry it from the trials, condensing into a few years a process that would otherwise have taken a decade or more.

What will the new line be called? What colors are included? Will it really be ready for the 2012 season? Time will tell. But the good news is that the garden impatiens will be brought back… and fairly soon!

Fingers crossed!

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