Plant Ecology and Evolution 152(3): 450-459, doi: 10.5091/plecevo.2019.1575
Conditional dormancy of Stipa lagascae (Poaceae) bulk-harvested on seed increase plots in South Tunisia: a reassessment and a surprise
expand article infoMarjolein Visser, Amaury Beaugendre§
‡ Plant Breeding and Sustainable Crop Production Department, Faculty of Bioengineering Sciences, University of Ghent, Coupure Links 653, B-9000 Gent, Belgium§ Present address: Agroecology Lab, Interfaculty School of Bio-engineering, Faculty of Sciences, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 50 Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
Open Access

Background and aims – With the perspective to reseed degraded drylands, grass seeds are often stocked for several years. This common practice overlooks conditional dormancy and the necessity to preserve it. This paper reports on the germination ecology of Stipa lagascae Roem. & Schult., which is a circum-Mediterranean winter-growing bunch grass of high grazing value. However, the published record on its germination ecology is scarce and inconsistent.

Methods – This record was reassessed through a series of germination trials in combination with dormancy breaking treatments on seeds that were mainly harvested on a seed increase plot in South-Tunisia.

Key results –The surprise finding was that Stipa lagascae exhibits a particular kind of conditional dormancy for many months after harvest. Whereas dormant seeds barely germinate at 10°C in classical Petri dishes or on germination tables, they germinate massively (but not fully) when allowed full contact with a water-saturated substrate at 7–10°C in boxes. Dehulling provokes fast germination of near 100% of the seeds, thus showing that the substrate effect at low temperatures breaks most but not all dormancy in a particular seed lot. This remaining or residual dormancy is not conditional, as it can only be broken through dehulling. There are thus two distinct germination windows: a very broad one for non-dormant seed and a narrow one for conditionally dormant seed.

Conclusions – A pattern is suggested whereby each seed lot evolves through a continuum from full over conditional to non-dormancy and finally mortality. However, only the state of conditional dormancy times germination optimally with regard to the start of the winter growing season in South-Tunisia. Its ecological significance should be interpreted in combination with its trypanocarpy. Reseeding for restoration purposes and to render grazing value to depleted drylands should thus use conditionally dormant seed.

Stipa lagascae Roem. & Schult., conditional dormancy, Type I nondeep physiological dormancy, dry after-ripening, ecological restoration, Mediterranean steppe


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