Seed is a fertilized mature ovule, which possesses an embryonic plant. When the dry, mature seeds are subjected to imbibition, they release a wide range of organic substances, which include low molecular weight carbonyl compounds (gases and volatiles) and water-soluble organic substances (enzymes and polysaccharides). The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are molecules of low molecular weight (300 g mol−1) and high vapour pressure (0.01 kPa at 20°C) and include diverse chemical compounds. The nature and emission kinetics of volatiles produced from seeds vary, depending on the moisture content of the seeds. Orthodox seeds stored at ‘low seed moisture content’ undergo seed deterioration, predominantly due to lipid peroxidation, initiated by autoxidation or enzymatic oxidation of unsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids. This peroxidation leads to emission of volatile compounds. The quantity of VOCs emitted is positively correlated with the advancement of seed deterioration. With respect to the seed germination process, exposure of seeds to ‘high moisture conditions’ leads to increased respiration, triggers glycolysis and mobilization of storage reserves, resulting in the emission of volatile metabolic products. The quantity of VOCs emitted on commencement of metabolic activity in germinating seeds depends on (1) vigour status and (2) amount of storage reserves. Since it has been established that there is a significant difference between high and low vigour seeds with respect to quantity and profile of VOCs emitted, there is great potential for utilizing the VOC profile to obtain a quick and reproducible test of vigour status of crop seeds. In order to harness the VOC profile for quick assessment of vigour status of seeds, research has to be taken up to develop standard protocols for fingerprinting of VOCs for the purpose of seed vigour assessment and to fix the standard volatile biomarker(s) specific to crop and vigour status of seeds.