Imbibitional stress was imposed on neem (Azadirachta indica) seeds by letting them soak for 1 h in water at unfavourable, low temperatures before further incubation at 30degreesC. Sensitivity to low imbibition temperatures increased with a decrease in seed moisture content (MC). To investigate a possible involvement of seed age in the extent of imbibitional damage, initially high-quality seed lots that differed in storage history (10 weeks versus 10 months) were examined at 4 and 7% (fresh weight basis). After 10 months of storage, the 7% MC seeds had become sensitive to imbibitional stress. Further drying (1 week) to 4% MC affected aged seeds more than non-aged seeds. Barrier properties of cellular membranes in axes excised after 1 d of rehydration were estimated using a spin-probe technique. The proportion of cells with intact membranes increased with increasing imbibition temperature. For each temperature tested, there were more cells with leaky membranes after 10 months than after 10 weeks of dry storage. Localization of embryo cells displaying loss of turgor and abnormal cellular structure was accomplished using cryo-planing, followed by cryo-scanning electron microscopy. Inspection of the cryo-planed surfaces confirmed that imbibitional damage was temperature dependent, occurring at the periphery. Ageing increased the number of imbibitionally damaged, peripheral cell layers. Germination was estimated to fail when less than 70% of axis cells were alive. We conclude that ageing increases the sensitivity to imbibitional stress. Both the fast ageing and the sensitivity to imbibitional stress might explain the apparent controversies about neem seed desiccation tolerance and storage behaviour.
- storage behavior
- desiccation tolerance