Seed priming (controlled hydration followed by drying) is used to alleviate high temperature inhibition of germination and improve seedling emergence of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) and other species. However, seed priming can also reduce the longevity of seeds during dry storage. Alternative drying methods [i.e., slow drying or moisture content reduction (MCR) before drying] can extend seed longevity compared to conventional rapid drying procedures after priming. Three postpriming drying treatments were tested on `Conquistador' and `Genecorp Green' lettuce seeds: rapid drying, slow drying and MCR (10% fresh weight loss, then held at 100% relative humidity (RH) for 6 hours, followed by rapid drying). The effects of the postpriming treatments on seed quality and longevity were compared based upon standard germination tests, germination rates, thermogradient table tests, controlled deterioration (CD) tests, and headspace volatiles analysis. The latter may be correlated with seed longevity as release of volatiles (e.g., acetaldehyde, ethanol) is associated with lipid peroxidation. While neither slow drying nor MCR before drying restored lettuce seed longevity to that of the control (not primed) seeds, the MCR method generally gave better results in both cultivars compared to rapid drying. Among the CD test conditions used, 50 °C and 75% RH gave the most consistent results for estimating potential longevity. Headspace volatile emissions from both control and primed lettuce seeds were very low and were not well correlated with seed longevity. Alternative postpriming drying regimes can extend seed longevity while retaining the beneficial effects of priming.
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