Control of seed germination
Seeds have a central role in agriculture and a better knowledge of seed quality traits will contribute to safeguard future food security. The mechanisms by which dormancy and longevity control seed germination are largely unknown. Our main research goal is to understand these germination quality traits at the molecular level.
Seed dormancy is defined as the incapacity of a viable seed to germinate under (temporary) favourable conditions and determines the moment of germination. Too low seed dormancy levels cause germination before the start of a favourable growth season, risking mortality. In contrast, too high levels of seed dormancy delay germination and reduce the length of the growing season. In crop plants, germination timing is determined by the moment when seeds are sown. These seeds should germinate immediately, making seed dormancy an unwanted trait. Consequently, selection for shallow seed dormancy occurred during domestication and seeds from most crop plants germinate uniformly after sowing. However, too low dormancy levels reduce seed quality and can trigger pre-harvest sprouting, causing yield losses in cereals. Dormancy also influences seed longevity, but the nature of this relation is not understood.