The effects of a short exposure to red, far-red or alternate red/far-red light on the germination of seeds after-ripened for different periods of time were studied in dormant lines of wild oat (Avena fatua L.). Three stages were distinguishable in the after-ripening period in the response of germination to light. Seeds stayed dormant and showed no response to light during stage I. Phytochrome-mediated germination was observed in seeds during stage II. The phytochrome action disappeared during stage III, i.e. seeds fully germinated following treatments of all light qualities. When the seeds were imbibed in polyethylene glycol solutions, dark germination was reduced and phytochrome again had an effect, which suggested the involvement of phytochrome in water uptake of the seed.