Postharvest characteristics, such as vase life and antimicrobial preservation of commercial cut flowers are some of the major determinants of their market value worldwide. Extending vase life while restricting microbial proliferation in cut flowers is an important challenge faced by floricultural researchers. This study evaluates the preservative efficiency of different essential oils used as additive solutions in prolonging the longevity of carnation cv. Madam Collette cut flowers and restricting microbial growth in them. Cut carnations were treated with four essential oils: geranium, thyme, marjoram, and anise at concentrations of 0, 25, 50, and 75 mg/L. While treatment with all the essential oils prolonged the longevity of the cut flowers, thyme and marjoram oils were most effective at concentrations of 50 mg/L each. The vase life of thyme-treated and marjoram-treated carnations almost doubled to 18.5 days and 18.25 days, respectively, as compared to untreated flowers. Treatment with essential oils also led to an increase in water uptake by the cut flowers enhancing their relative water content (RWC). It also restricted the sharp decline of chlorophyll and total carbohydrates content of the flowers during their vase life period. Morphological features of the stem bases of treated and untreated carnations were analyzed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The stem ends of geranium and anise-treated carnations showed less bacterial growth than untreated flowers and no apparent xylem blockage was observed even after nine days of treatment. Furthermore, the presence of essential oils also reduced lipid peroxidation and free radical generation as observed by malondialdehyde (MDA) and H2O2 quantification, respectively. It also led to increased production of total phenols leading to enhanced membrane stability. The use of thyme and marjoram essential oils as antimicrobial preservatives and green antioxidants appears to have promising applications in both the industrial and scientific sectors.
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