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Seed Dormancy Mechanisms in Basalt Milkvetch and Western Prairie Clover

Jones, Thomas A., Johnson, Douglas A., Bushman, B. Shaun, Connors, Kevin J., Smith, Robert C.
Rangeland ecology & management 2016 v.69 no.2 pp. 117-122
Astragalus filipes, Dalea ornata, field experimentation, forbs, germination, legumes, rangelands, sand, seed dormancy, seed scarification, seeds, Western United States
A greater diversity of native legumes and forbs is desirable for rangeland restoration practice in the Intermountain Region of the western United States. But for such diversity to materialize in the seed marketplace and to be effective in restoration practice, seeds that germinate reliably in seed fields and on restoration sites are needed. We measured germination response of two native legumes, basalt milkvetch (Astragalus filipes Torr. ex A. Gray) and western prairie clover (Dalea ornata [Douglas] Eaton & Wright), after eight germination treatments. Treatments were a factorial combination of 1) seed scarification with sandpaper (or unscarified), 2) a substrate of moist sand (or blotter paper), and 3) a 3-wk prechill at 5° (or nonprechilled). Cumulative germination increased linearly throughout the 10-wk course of the experiment for all treatment combinations in both species. Scarification increased germination of western prairie clover, but prechilling and substrate had no effect. In contrast, prechilling, scarification, and a sand substrate all increased germination of basalt milkvetch. Hence, for this species the prechilled/scarified/sand treatment combination displayed the numerically highest germination for all 10 wk (30−43%), and the nonprechilled/unscarified/blotter paper treatment combination always germinated lowest (1−3%). Results were consistent with physical dormancy (hard-seededness) limiting germination of western prairie clover and combinational dormancy (i.e., co-occurrence of physical and physiological dormancy) limiting germination of basalt milkvetch. Of the two species, we have found basalt milkvetch to be the more difficult to establish from seed. By prechilling acid-scarified seed in moist sand, basalt milkvetch was successfully established in two field trials seeded in mid-April. Nonprechilled mechanically (sandpaper) scarified seed germinated as high as prechilled acid-scarified seed. By scarifying and prechilling basalt milkvetch seed to address physical and physiological dormancy mechanisms, respectively, this seed-treatment protocol may be “scaled up” to produce large quantities of germinable seed.