The effect of seed and soil physical conditions on establishment of sorghum
The studies reported here, used sorghum to: (i) investigate the effect of changes in the matric suction (m) of filter-paper on germination and water uptake (ii) assess the effect of seed vigour on seedling response to the m of filter paper and to soil mechanical impedance, (iii) investigate the effect of root-shoot interaction on establishment of seedlings subjected to mechanical impedance (MI), and (iv) evaluate the effects of different amounts of planting rain on crop establishment. A technique for controlling matric suction on seed test paper is described and used to study seed germination at m of 0.1, 1 and 10 kPa. Time to 50% germination was increased, and final lengths of both radicles and cleoptiles reduced by an increase in m from either 0.1 to 1, or 1 to 10 kPa. A link between filter paper m, seed-liquid contact area, seed size, the rate of water uptake and germination is discussed. Unimpeded, pregerminated low vigour and fresh seeds produced a similar root and shoot length, fresh mass, and number of leaves and lateral roots. When grown in compacted soil, low vigour seed took longer to emerge but only when seeds were severely aged. (i) Impedance to the shoot delayed emergence, more so when the root was also impeded. (ii) Shoots emerging through a mechanically impeding layer, had greater extension rates after emergence than unimpeded ones. (iii) Mesocotyls became thicker only when the root systems were impeded. (iv) Impeding the shoot system, increased root extension rate. (v) The length of the first internode, the number of leaves and the spacing of lateral roots were not changed by any of the treatments. Germination was >95% in sand columns watered with 5, 10 or 15 mm equivalents of rain. However, seedling emergence was <15% in the 5 mm compared to 77-100% in the 10 and 15 mm treatments. At harvest (9 DAP), all seedlings in the 5 mm treatment were dead. Seedlings given 10 mm rain showed signs of water stress. The interaction between seed vigour, the amount of water available to germinating seed, and soil mechanical impedance and their effect on crop establishment is discussed.