Hazelnuts are mostly non-dormant at harvest but develop seed dormancy after a few days of storage. The seeds have been classified as recalcitrant since they cannot be stored for more than one year under ambient conditions. Cryopreservation has not been satisfactory so an alternative protocol is required.To test for recalcitrance, chilled non-dormant seeds (control) were compared with gibberellic acid (GA3) treated seeds during 6 weeks storage at 5°C or at ambient temperature. Control seed moisture content (MC) was 14-15% compared with 20% for GA3 treated seeds. No change in viability was noted until the end of 6 weeks at ambient temperature, when infection proliferated. Reduced germinability, associated with increased leachate conductivity, was noted on all treatments and controls, with ambient temperature storage most harmful for seed viability. This supports classification of hazel seeds as recalcitrant. However, orthodox behaviour could be induced by reducing seed moisture to <6%, showing survival for more than 3 years at -20°C with acceptable germinability and producing healthy seedlings. Pathogen tests show that 6 weeks chilling to break seed dormancy may activate the seeds’ internal protective mechanisms, thereby reducing infection and enabling germination and healthy seedling establishment.The link between seed viability and protection from free radicals and pathogens was examined. Antioxidant activity in hazelnut seed associates (such as endocarp, funiculus and testa) was found to be much higher than in the seed embryo, perhaps indicating that hazel seeds have natural protective mechanisms within the pericarp. Antioxidant activity of seed associates increased during chilling, indicating their role in protecting the seed. Nevertheless, TTC test revealed that seeds acclimatised toii<6% MC and stored at 5°C for 45 weeks showed viability loss due to damage of the embryonic axes, probably caused by free radicals.Initial tests to stabilise seed moisture content showed that reduction in seed moisture did not impose dormancy and seed moisture content (MC) stabilisation resulted in >80% germination but many abnormal seedlings.Dormancy reversibility was tested by treatments T1 (one period at 15°C) and T2 (two periods at 15°C), designed following a consideration of the natural environment. Both resulted in reduced germination, delayed seedling emergence, increased abnormal seedlings, reduced seedling height and decreased internode numbers. To test the role of temperature in reduced seed performance, non-dormant hazelnuts were held at either 5°C or at ambient temperature for up to 6 weeks. Seeds from both sets exhibited high viability, but germinability was significantly decreased in the ambient temperature set, associated with increases in leachate conductivity and infection.Work in this thesis has confirmed that dormancy was broken by chilling, with gradually increasing germination as chilling time was increased. Germination increased with increase in chilling and reduction in infection. No infection was recoreded after 6 weeks chilling. It is most likely that protective agents are produced causing suppression of infection.In these experiments it was observed that not all germinated seeds produced healthy seedlings, suggesting that germination tests without observation of seedlings may give an incomplete assessment of germination success. Assessment using the Tetrazolium test (TTC) was found to be much more dependable and it was also possible to detect damage to specific tissues that might result in unhealthy seedlings.
|Date of Award||14 Sep 2015|
|Supervisor||William O'Hare (Supervisor), Mosharraf Sarker (Supervisor), Komang Ralebitso-Senior (Supervisor) & Janey Henderson (Supervisor)|