Red rice (Oryza sativa L.) dispersal units (florets) were dry-afterripened for 0–8 weeks and subsequently incubated at 30°C in polyethylene glycol (PEG) solutions with water potentials from 0 to − 1.6 MPa. Germination percentages and rates increased with dry-afterripening and water potential of the incubation medium. The seed population exhibited a normal distribution of base water potentials (Ψb, i.e. minimum water potential allowing germination) among individual seeds, characterized by three parameters: the hydrotime constant (θH), the mean base water potential (Ψb) and the standard deviation of the base water potential distribution (σΨb). Changes in germination during afterripening could be described by modifications of such parameters, particularly Ψb, which was employed to derive an index, DH(ARX = Ψb(ARX) − Ψb(ARN), where DH(ARX) represents a measure of dormancy of the seed population (in MPa) based on the hydrotime model, Ψb(ARX) is the mean base water potential of the seed population at any afterripening time X, and Ψb(ARN) is the mean water potential of the non-dormant (fully afterripened) population. The introduction of this index permitted interpretation of afterripening as a measurable reduction in the dormancy status of the seed, with progressive acquisition of both full germinative capacity and maximum germination rate, as anticipated by the hydrotime model. Moreover, secondary dormancy was induced proportionally to the reduction in water potential in the dark. Susceptibility to secondary dormancy induction was defined through DI(ARX), an index analogous to DH(ARX). These indices revealed that, in red rice, both breaking of primary dormancy and the inducibility of secondary dormancy followed decay kinetics with different sensitivities to the duration of dry storage.