The assessment and improvement of seed quality in Brassica oleracea L
A survey of the quality of brassica seed used for commercial transplant production revealed that overall germination was high but that there was a wide range of seed vigour, as assessed by the controlled deterioration test. These vigour differences were reflected in the performance of seed in modules, the use of low quality seed resulting in problems of a reduced rate of emergence and a lack of seedling uniformity. The improvement of seed quality was considered using three approaches. First, the use of seed soakwater conductivity as a means of predicting germination was investigated for individual seeds. This proved not to be a reliable means of sorting seeds. However, the combination of controlled deterioration followed by assessment of conductivity on bulks of seeds gave a good indication of vigour and was developed as a possible rapid vigour test. Secondly, the relation between seed size and seed performance was examined. No clear relationship was found between seed size and seed quality, although, seed size had a marked effect on seedling growth, the larger seeds consistently producing taller seedlings. Thirdly, a physiological means of seed improvement was considered. Aerated hydration in water columns was successful as an invigoration treatment resulting in increased germination rate, root length of seedlings and seed vigour leading to enhanced performance in modules. These improvements were maintained after drying and storage. The optimum short-term treatment was 8 hours hydration at 25oC. The improvement could be partly attributed to germination advancement and in addition the effect of temperature, aeration and the greater improvement of aged seeds suggested that repair processes were activated during aerated hydration. Also, prolonged hydration for up to 32 hours gave an improvement such that the performance of aged seed was not significantly different to unaged seed. Finally, one possible mechanism by which aerated hydration resulted in such improvements in seed quality was investigated. DNA synthesis began approximately 24 hours earlier in unaged than in aged seed. Hydration reduced this lag phase, indicating that the onset of DNA replication was accelerated. The use of hydroxyurea, an inhibitor of DNA replication, indicated that the repair of accumulated DNA damage may have been occurring between the 16th and 32nd hours of germination.