The effect of seed priming on the germination, emergence, and development of five different grass species

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Watts, Jason Christopher
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The production and use of many native grasses is often limited because of high seed dormancy and poor seedling development which result in poor stand establishment. The objective of this study was to develop a simple seed priming method that incorporated the use of stratification. The effect this priming methodology had on the germination and emergence of several grass species was tested in a series of indoor and field experiments. Seeds of little bluestem ('Schizachyrium scoparium' [Michx.] Nash), blue grama ('Bouteloua gracilis' [Wild. ex Kunth] Lag. Ex Griffiths), green needlegrass ('Nassella viridula' [Trin.] Barkworth), prairie sandreed ('Calamovilfa longifolia' [Hook.] Scribn.), and Kentucky bluegrass ('Poa pratensis' L.) were placed into cloth bags and soaked for 24 hours in water or a 0.5% KNO3 solution. The seeds were chilled at 4C for either 1 week or 3 weeks, then dried on screens for 48 hours at 25C. Two controls were used to determine the effects of the priming treatments, one was completely untreated, the other was soaked in water for 1 hour, then dried without any chilling period. All little bluestem priming treatments had equally higher germination and emergence than untreated control seed. Priming green needlegrass for 3 weeks in a 0.5% KNO3 solution produced the greatest % germination and quickest emergence. Priming prairie sandreed for 3 weeks in water produced the highest emergence counts and fastest germination rate of all treatments. There was little advantage gained from priming blue grama and Kentucky bluegrass. The results of this research showed that seed priming has great potential for improving the germination and emergence of native grasses. However, the results will vary widely depending on species and environmental conditions.