Modeling seed germination and seedling emergence in winterfat (krascheninnikovia lanata (pursh) A.D.J. Meeuse & Smit) : physiological mechanisms and ecological relevance
Winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata) a native shrub has superior forage quality for livestock and wildlife, and is important in the structure and the function of the Northern Mixed Prairie of North America. Seedbeds in the Northern Mixed Prairie are characterized by high fluctuations in temperature and soil water, especially at the soil surface during the spring under unpredictable weather conditions. High seedling mortality is a major limitation for establishing winterfat from direct seeding. Objectives of this study were to: 1) quantify germination responses to temperature and water potential; 2) predict seed germination and seedling emergence using constructed threshold models; and 3) investigate physiological mechanisms and the ecological relevance of model parameters. The constructed thermal and hydrothermal time models predicted germination time in most controlled temperature and water potential regimes with the modification of model assumptions in winterfat. For the first time, it was proved that winterfat seeds have a subzero base temperatures (Tb) for germination, achieving 43 to 67% germination at – 3oC. The estimated Tb was lower in the large seeds (-4.5oC) than in the small seeds (-3.5oC) and the difference between seed collections was also about 1oC. Lower Tb favors large seeds to accumulate more thermal time at a given temperature, especially in early spring or fall when temperatures are low. Basic assumptions of hydrothermal time model, such as the constancy of model parameters, are invalid in winterfat. Model parameters varied with water potential, temperature and seed size within a seed collection. The predictability of constructed models is acceptable for seedling emergence only at optimal conditions in the field. Adverse seedbed conditions such as high soil temperatures (> 15oC) and limited soil water (< -0.5 MPa) reduced predictability of seedling emergence with the hydrothermal time model. Pre- and post-germination events that affect seed deterioration, seedling mortality and seedling elongation may reduce the predictability of the hydrothermal time model. Small seeds required approximately twice as long as large seeds to reach 50% germination at -1 to -3oC. Greater cold tolerance in large seeds was correlated with greater membrane integrity, less cold imbibition damage, higher contents of soluble cryoprotective sugars, such as glucose, raffinose and sucrose during germination at low temperature. These sugars prevent from dysfunctions of cell membrane and enzymes at freezing temperatures.
hydrothermal time, germination modeling, seedbed conditions, thermal time
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)