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Priming and re-drying improve the survival of mature seeds of Digitalis purpurea during storage

Butler, L.H., Hay, F.R., Ellis, R.H., Smith, R.D., Murray, T.B.
Annals of botany 2009 v.103 no.8 pp. 1261-1270
Digitalis purpurea, ecosystem services, gene banks, longevity, plant breeding, rehydration, relative humidity, seed priming, seeds
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Most priming studies have been conducted on commercial seed lots of unspecified uniformity and maturity, and subsequent seed longevity has been reported to both increase and decrease. Here a seed lot of Digitalis purpurea L. with relatively uniform maturity and known history was used to analyse the effects of priming on seed longevity in air-dry storage. METHODS: Seeds collected close to natural dispersal and dried at 15 % relative humidity (RH), 15 °C, were placed into experimental storage (60 % RH, 45 °C) for 14 or 28 d, primed for 48 h at 0, -1, -2, -5, -10 or -15 MPa, re-equilibrated (47 % RH, 20 °C) and then returned to storage. Further seed samples were primed for 2 or 48 h at -1 MPa and either dried at 15 % RH, 15 °C or immediately re-equilibrated for experimental storage. Finally, some seeds were given up to three cycles of experimental storage and priming (48 h at -1 MPa). KEY RESULTS: Priming at -1 MPa had a variable effect on subsequent survival during experimental storage. The shortest lived seeds in the control population showed slightly increased life spans; the longer lived seeds showed reduced life spans. In contrast, seeds first stored for 14 or 28 d before priming had substantially increased life spans. The increase tended to be greatest in the shortest lived fraction of the seed population. Both the period of rehydration and the subsequent drying conditions had significant effects on longevity. Interrupting air-dry storage with additional cycles of priming also increased longevity. CONCLUSIONS: The extent of prior deterioration and the post-priming desiccation environment affect the benefits of priming to the subsequent survival of mature seeds. Rehydration-dehydration treatments may have potential as an adjunct or alternative to the regeneration of seed accessions maintained in gene banks for plant biodiversity conservation or plant breeding.