Seed Dormancy in Three Wild Rye (Elymus) Species

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  • 1 University of Kentucky, Horticulture, 406b Plant Science Bldg., Lexington, KY, 40546

Wild rye (Elymus) contains several species of cool season grasses that are important components of forest and woodland ecosystems. Little specific information is known about seed dormancy in wild rye species, but cool season grasses generally display endogenous, non-deep physiological dormancy that would normally be satisfied by moist chilling during winter to permit early spring germination. However, few studies have documented the effect of extended chilling stratification on dormancy release in cool season grasses. Therefore, the objective of this study was to document the dormancy condition of representative wild rye species and to observe the impact of chilling stratification on dormancy release. Three species of wild rye (E. virginicus, E. macgregorii, and E. villosus) were selected based on their taxonomic and ecological relationships. All species showed conditional dormancy with respect to germination temperature. At 15 °C, E. virginicus, E. macgregorii, and E. villosus germinated at 75%, 81%, and 40%, respectively, compared to 5%, 3%, and 12% for each species at 20 and 25 °C. Chilling stratification at 10 °C improved germination compared to non-stratified seeds to 95% and 94% for E. m acgregorii and E. villosus, but had no effect or reduced germination in E. virginicus. Stratification at 5 °C was not as effective as 10 °C for dormancy release and appeared to cause chilling injury in E. virginicus and E. macgregorii. The data suggest that these wild rye species express a form of conditional endogenous, non-deep physiological dormancy that is most pronounced when seeds are germinated at non-optimal temperatures.

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