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Summary

Trials were carried out in order to investigate the effect of hypoxia on seed germination of Datura stramonium L. in Petri dishes and when buried at various depths in soil. Hypoxia was found to cause a decrease in germination capacity and germination rate. This inhibition was partially alleviated by daily exchange of hypoxic gas surrounding the seeds during incubation. Similarly, seed scarification allowed maintenance of a higher germination capacity under conditions of low oxygen availability, showing that the seed coat was only partially gas permeable. Oxygen deficiency led to a decrease in respiratory capacity. However, this was probably compensated for by induction of fermentation metabolism. The possibility of removing the final products of fermentation exerts a decisive influence on seed germination, especially in an environment such as soil, where their diffusion into the surrounding environment is restricted. Thus daily nitrogen flushing partially eliminated this inhibition, even under conditions of low external oxygen availability. It was therefore postulated that the main depth–derived inhibition was not caused directly by oxygen deficiency but by the increasing difficulty in eliminating toxic fermentation products, which was found to be proportional to the degree of hypoxia. Finally, incubation for several days under completely anaerobic conditions induced secondary dormancy. This was probably due to an ecological adaptation mechanism that prevents germination under conditions that are unfavourable for survival.