Effect of chemical environment on seed germination

C.M. Karssen, H.W.M. Hilhorst

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Seeds receive information about the succession of seasons through fluctuations in temperature. In arid and semi-arid zones, the timing of precipitation adds important information. Seeds receive information about their depth in the soil and neighbouring vegetation through the dependency of the germination process on light and fluctuating diurnal temperatures. Therefore, germination of many seed species often only occurs at or close to the surface of the soil and in vegetation gaps. The chemical environment provides seeds with information about the quality of their environment with respect to suitability for growth. In general, chemical factors that promote germination are also beneficial for emergence and seedling growth. The dependence of many species on nitrate for germination is a clear example of this rule. The presence of high soil nitrate levels may even stimulate the germination of the next generation of seeds, via the accumulation of nitrate during seed formation. The dependence of parasitic seeds on chemical promoters excreted by the host plant illustrates the parallelism between the stimulation of germination and seedling growth. Seedlings of the parasite also depend fully on host factors. Similarly, allelopathic substances in the soil, which inhibit germination, are generally deleterious to seedling growth.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSeeds - The ecology of regeneration in plant communities
EditorsM. Fenner
Place of PublicationWallingford, UK
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780851994321
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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