JOURNAL ARTICLE

Do conditions during dormancy influence germination of Suaeda maritima?

Anne M Wetson, Carla Cassaniti, Timothy J Flowers
Annals of Botany 2008, 101 (9): 1319-27
18369238

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Seeds of annual halophytes such as Suaeda maritima experience fluctuating salinity, hydration, hypoxia and temperature during dormancy. Germination then occurs in one flush of 2-3 weeks after about 5 months of winter dormancy during which time the seeds can remain in saline, often waterlogged soil. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of simulated natural conditions during dormancy on germination and to compare this with germination following the usual conditions of storing seeds dry. The effects of hydration, salinity, hypoxia and temperature regimes imposed during dormancy on germination were investigated. Also looked at were the effects of seed size on germination and the interaction between salinity during dormancy and salinity at the time of germination.

METHODS: Various pre-treatments were imposed on samples of seeds that had been stored dry or wet for different periods of time during the 5 months of natural dormancy. Subsequent germination tests were carried out in conditions that simulated those found in the spring when germination occurs naturally. Various salinities were imposed at germination for a test of interaction between storage salinity and salinity at germination.

KEY RESULTS: A temperature of about 15 degrees C was needed for germination and large seeds germinated earlier and better than small seeds. Cold seawater pre-treatment was necessary for good germination; the longer the saline pre-treatment during the natural dormancy period the better the germination. There appeared to be no effect of any specific ion of the seawater pre-treatment on germination and severe hypoxia did not prevent good germination. A short period of freezing stimulated early germination in dry-stored seed. Storage in cold saline or equivalent osmotic medium appeared to inhibit germination during the natural dormancy period and predispose the seed to germinate when the temperature rose and the salinity fell. Seeds that were stored in cold wet conditions germinated better in saline conditions than those stored dry.

CONCLUSIONS: The conditions under which seeds of S. maritima are stored affect their subsequent germination. Under natural conditions seeds remain dormant in highly saline, anoxic mud and then germinate when the temperature rises above about 15 degrees C and the salinity is reduced.

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