Priming, a controlled-hydration treatment followed by redrying, improves the germination and emergence of seeds from many species. We compared osmotic and matric priming to determine which was the most effective treatment for improving broccoli seed germination and to gain a greater understanding of how seed vigor is enhanced by priming. Broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. var. italica) seeds were osmotically primed in polyethylene glycol (PEG 8000) at -1.1 MPa or matrically primed in a ratio of 1.0 g seed:0.8 g synthetic calcium silicate (Micro-Cel E):1.8 ml water at -1.2 MPa. In the laboratory, germination rates and root lengths were recorded from 5 to 42C and 10 to 35C, respectively. Broccoli seeds germinated poorly at >35C. Root growth after germination was more sensitive to temperatures >30C and <15C than radicle emergence. Matric and osmotic priming increased germination rate in the laboratory, greenhouse, and field. However, matric priming had a greater effect on germination and root growth rates from 15 to 30C. Neither priming treatment affected minimum or maximum germination or root growth temperatures. Both priming treatments decreased the mean thermal time for germination by >35%. The greater germination performance of matrically primed seeds was most likely the result of increased oxygen availability during priming, increased seed Ca content, or improved membrane integrity.
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