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Target moisture content prechill overcomes the dormancy of temperate conifer seeds

, : Target moisture content prechill overcomes the dormancy of temperate conifer seeds. New forests 8(4): 309-321

Temperate conifer seeds are often considered to be shallowly dormant because a dormancy breakage treatment such as incubation of moist seeds at 4 degrees C (prechilling) for 3-6 weeks improves germination. However, longer prechill durations can induce germination during the cold phase. Since the delicate radicles of prematurely germinated seeds are easily damaged and killed during sowing, potential benefits of extended prechilling are unknown. Described here for the first time is a target moisture content (TMC) prechill. In this dormancy breakage method the seeds are chilled at moisture contents high enough for removal of dormancy but low enough to produce surface dry, free flowing seeds that do not germinate during chilling. The method is a simple, effective and practical way to restrict the amount of water available to seeds from the start of a prechill treatment. The TMC prechill was applied to three conifer species, Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirbel) Franco), Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Douglas), and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bongard) Carriere). All three species benefited from the TMC prechill. Extending the prechill period progressively improved germination by widening the range of temperatures over which germination occurred, raising germination capacity at most temperatures and increasing germination rate at all temperatures. The optimum prechill period combining high germination capacity and low mean germination time was 36 weeks for Douglas fir, from 36 to 76 weeks for Lodgepole pine and 36 or 76 weeks for Sitka spruce depending on incubation temperature. None of the seeds of any of the species germinated during the TMC prechill of up to 76 weeks at 4 degrees C.

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Accession: 002549423

DOI: 10.1007/bf00036731

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