BACKGROUNDThe ability to induce flowering on demand is of significant biotechnological interest. FT protein has been recently identified as an important component of the mobile flowering hormone, florigen, whose function is conserved across the plant kingdom. We therefore focused on manipulation of both endogenous and heterologous FT genes to develop a floral induction system where flowering would be inhibited until it was induced on demand. The concept was tested in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis).RESULTSOur starting point was plants with strongly delayed flowering due to silencing of FT with an artificial microRNA directed at FT (amiR-FT) 1. First, we showed that constitutive expression of a heterologous FT gene (FTa1), from the model legume Medicago truncatula, (Medicago) was able to rescue the amiR-FT late-flowering phenotype. In order to induce flowering in a controlled way, the FTa1 gene was then expressed under the control of an alcohol-inducible promoter in the late flowering amiR-FT plants. Upon exposure to ethanol, FTa1 was rapidly up regulated and this resulted in the synchronous induction of flowering.CONCLUSIONSWe have thus demonstrated a controlled-inducible flowering system using a novel combination of endogenous and heterologous FT genes. The universal florigenic nature of FT suggests that this type of system should be applicable to crops of economic value where flowering control is desirable.