Priming in polyethylene glycol (PEG, −1.5 MPa) for 7 d followed by drying, led to a 4–5 fold increase in mean longevity when achenes (seeds) of Ranunculus sceleratus L. were subsequently stored at 35°C and 9.2% moisture content on a fresh weight basis (67.1% equilibrium relative humidity). The increase in longevity was due to an increase in the standard deviation of the frequency distribution of individual seed lifespans (decrease in the slope of transformed survival curves) and to a lesser extent to an increase in the intercept of survival curves. Priming for 1 d resulted in a smaller but significant increase in longevity independent of whether seeds were primed in PEG, distilled water or a saturated atmosphere (100% RH).
The effects of priming were not due to the prevention of imbibition injury, and there was no evidence that the water relations of whole achenes was affected by priming. The effects of a 7 d priming treatment were dependent on the temperature and nature of the priming medium. However, no differences were recorded between corresponding treatments which were primed in PEG or distilled water. Moreover, the survival and responsivity to priming of R. sceleratus seeds was not related to dormancy status. The effects of priming on the longevity of R. sceleratus seeds are apparently unrelated to seed quality as the response of seeds previously aged for 8 d at 35°C and 7.9% moisture content was similar to that for unaged seeds.
Priming followed by drying did not increase seed longevity in the related species R. acris L. The promotive effects of priming on seed survival appear to be species specific and may be related to ecological factors.