Seed storage death

Twenty-year-old seeds stored at room temperature (70 ± 10 F) were placed on moistened germination battens for thirty days in order to learn whether any were still alive. Six seeds in a population of 149 did germinate, but only their shoot grew through the pericarp; no root growth occurred. These six seeds occurred on 4 ears, each of which were somewhat related to W22 but genetically different from each other. It is of interest to note that the two growing points on a dormant seed do not apparently survive equally well after long storage times. The root loses its growth ability sooner than the shoot. I wonder why?

The shoot growth that was observed on the six plants noted above all showed coleoptile expansion and appeared normal, except in none of these cases did the coleoptile open. It seems instructive to view the dormant seed as a series of functioning systems each of which must be turned on for germination. These six seeds demonstrate that some systems can turn on after twenty years while others cannot. It would be of interest to determine if these plants could have been salvaged by removal of the embryo to artificial media. This test will be run during the coming year. In contrast to this experience, other seeds that have been stored under reduced temperature and humidity for 25 years showed greater than 95% germination, with both the root and shoot behaving normally.

Irwin Greenblatt

Please Note: Notes submitted to the Maize Genetics Cooperation Newsletter may be cited only with consent of the authors.

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