Population-based Models of Seed Viability Loss during Storage: What's the Use?

in HortScience
Kent J. BradfordDept. of Vegetable Crops, Univ. of California, Davis, CA 95616-8631.

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In 1981, R.H. Ellis and E.H. Roberts published a classic paper on the quantification of aging and survival in seeds (Seed Sci. & Technol. 9:373). This paper and subsequent refinements described a model of seed aging in storage that was based on the fact that to a good approximation, deaths over time in a seed population are normally distributed. The model provides a quantitative description of seed longevity across a wide range of storage temperatures and moisture contents. Despite its theoretical importance and practical success, the Ellis–Roberts approach has not been widely adopted by the seed industry to assess seed quality and predict longevity in storage. This may be due, in part, to the rather unfamiliar statistics (probit analysis) used in the model and the apparent complexity of the equations. It will be the argument of this presentation, however, that the precise quantification of seed longevity that this model affords is less significant than the insight that it provides into the nature of seed populations and how to think about them. The objective of this presentation will be to demystify the Ellis–Roberts model and illustrate with concrete examples how the application of population-based thinking is advantageous in many aspects of seed storage and quality assessment.

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