Seed Science Research

Research Papers

Understanding the mechanisms and kinetics of seed aging

Christina Waltersa1 c1

a1 USDA-ARS National Seed Storage Laboratory, 1111 S. Mason Street, Fort Collins, Colorado 80521, USA


When seeds deteriorate, they lose vigour and become more sensitive to stresses upon germination. Eventually seeds lose the ability to germinate. The factors which determine the rate of this ‘aging’ are the temperature and moisture content at which seeds are stored and an ill-defined parameter, seed quality. While it has been known for many years that manipulation of these factors influences the longevity of seeds, the precise interactions among them are so poorly understood as to preclude the prediction of longevity for a particular seed lot. Concepts from studies of materials and food stability can be applied to seed aging research, and this may help us take a more integrative approach to understanding the kinetics of seed deterioration. These concepts describe the physical environment of the seed matrix in response to changing water contents and temperature. Water activity models describe the state of water in the seed, while the glass models describe the state of the aqueous solution. Both models presume that changes of state affect the nature and kinetics of chemical reactions. Thus, the physical and chemical environment within the seed are inextricably linked.

(Received November 01 1997)

(Accepted January 15 1998)


c1 Formerly C. W. Vertucci +1 970-221-1427