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Desiccation damage, accelerated ageing and respiration in desiccation tolerant and sensitive seeds

  • Christina Walters (a1), N.W. Pammenter (a2), Patricia Berjak (a2) and Jennifer Crane (a1)


Embryonic axes of tea (desiccation sensitive) and pea (desiccation tolerant) were dried at different rates or stored at different water contents to distinguish between damage associated with the immediate effects of water loss and the longer-term effects of a partially hydrated state. No loss of viability was observed if pea axes were dried sufficiently rapidly (from 1.8 to 0.1 g H2O g-1dry mass (g/g) within 5 d). However, viability was lost in tea axes dried below 0.5 g/g (approximately -15 MPa) even if axes were dried within 1 h. Death in tea axes dried to moisture contents less than 0.5 g/g probably resulted from the removal of water necessary for cellular structural integrity (i.e. desiccation damage sensu stricto). When axes of both species were dried at slower rates, viability losses were observed at water potentials between about -3 and -15 MPa. The timing for this type of damage was species dependent, occurring within 2 d for tea and after 5 d for pea, and may be explained by higher oxidative activity in tea compared to pea. Embryos of both species with water potentials below -3 MPa were lethally damaged if oxygen consumption exceeded 1000–5000 μmol O2 g-1dry mass. Recalcitrant seeds are different than orthodox seeds because the former do not survive drying below a critical water content, regardless of the drying rate. Rapid drying is required for accurate assessment of the critical water content. Slow drying leads to metabolic imbalance and artefactual assessment of the critical water content for desiccation damage. Both tea and pea seeds were susceptible to damage from metabolic imbalances, suggesting that the predominant stress from slow drying is ageing.


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Desiccation damage, accelerated ageing and respiration in desiccation tolerant and sensitive seeds

  • Christina Walters (a1), N.W. Pammenter (a2), Patricia Berjak (a2) and Jennifer Crane (a1)


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