New seed research laboratory opens

On 10 May 2011, we officially opened a new laboratory for seed research

News from Forest Research: July 2011

Inside the new Forest Research seed research laboratory

Along with the usual seed testing equipment, the facility has a digital X-ray machine, which is used to determine seed quality by identifying whether seeds are empty or filled and, if filled, whether there is any damage from insects or other causes.

Recently, as part of collaborative research with the National Pinetum at Bedgebury, we used X-rays to track embryo growth in situ in seeds of the threatened conifer, Araucaria araucana, commonly known as the monkey puzzle tree. The X-rays provided a non-destructive method of regularly assessing the embryos’ progress, and also shed light on the germination profiles of this species.

An X-ray image of a seedling
An X-ray image of a seedling with elongated cotyledons (c), shrivelling food reserves (m), seed coat (sc) and a swollen pseudo-tuber (sh)

Araucaria araucana seeds have slow and erratic germination. The seeds of this species are shed from the tree with immature embryos that are small but perfectly formed. The embryos grow until they fully occupy the seeds, germinating a few weeks later. The rate of embryo growth is temperature-dependent; they grow faster at high temperatures and more slowly at low temperatures, which means that seeds can take about ten to twenty weeks to germinate. As a result, these large seeds are particularly prone to desiccation, disease and predation in the field. We hope that by developing a better understanding of this process our research will contribute to the successful conservation of this flagship species.

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This and other news stories can be found in the Summer 2011 issue of FR News, our online newsletter.