• onion (Allium cepa);
  • carrot (Daucus carota);
  • germination;
  • virtual osmotic potential;
  • hydrotime model;
  • hydrothermal time;
  • seed priming

A model of seed germination is proposed which uses a variable with the units of an osmotic potential (virtual osmotic potential) to integrate the effect of a constant or a varying water potential. This differs from existing models that describe the effects of fixed water potentials on germination, or the effects of fixed priming water potentials on the subsequent germination at a fixed water potential. When a seed is sown, the virtual osmotic potential is assumed to fall at a rate that depends on the ambient water potential, and on the difference between its current and a minimum value. Radicle growth is assumed to initiate when the difference between the ambient water potential and the virtual osmotic potential exceeds a threshold. The germination of carrot and onion seeds at various fixed potentials below 0 MPa was well described by the virtual osmotic potential model. The model was also used to simulate the results of experiments in which seeds were given a single step change in water potential.