Water Status of Seeds

in HortScience
A.G. TaylorDept. of Horticultural Sciences, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell Univ., Geneva, NY 14456.

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Four topics are presented on the status of water in seeds; 1) methods to express moisture content (MC), 2) methods to determine MC, 3) relationship between relative humidity (RH) and MC, and 4) utility of water activity measurements in seeds. Seed MC is expressed on a fresh-weight basis in commerce and seed technology, while dry weight basis is used in physiological or biophysical literature. Conversion equations are available for the fresh and dry weight measurements. Moisture testing methods are grouped as primary and secondary. Primary methods are direct methods in which the water is removed and determined, while the secondary methods are indirect methods that rely on a chemical or physical characteristic that changes with MC. The oven method is the most common primary technique and the electronic moisture meter is widely used as a nondestructive secondary technique. The relation between RH and MC is known as an isotherm, and three zones of water binding are observed. The RH and the seed composition, in particular the lipid content, determines the MC. Seeds with low lipid content have a greater equilibrium MC than seeds with high lipid content. Water activity, defined as the ratio of water vapor of the seed over the water vapor of pure water at a particular temperature, is related to water potential in a log-linear relationship. Water activity (aw) can be used to define the water status of any species, regardless of composition.

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