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Depending on the environmental conditions, imbibed seeds survive subzero temperatures either by supercooling or by tolerating freezing-induced desiccation. We investigated what the predominant survival mechanism is in freezing canola (Brassica napus cv. Quest) and concluded that it depends on the cooling rate. Seeds cooled at 3°C h−1 or faster supercooled, whereas seeds cooled over a 4-day period to −12°C and then cooled at 3°C h−1 to−40°C did not display low temperature exotherms. Both differential thermal analysis and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy confirmed that imbibed canola seeds undergo freezing-induced desiccation at slow cooling rates. The freezing tolerance of imbibed canola seed (LT50) was determined by slowly cooling to −12°C for 48 h, followed with cooling at 3°C h−1 to −40°C, or by holding at a constant −6°C (LD50). For both tests, the loss in freezing tolerance of imbibed seeds was a function of time and temperature of imbibition. Freezing tolerance was rapidly lost after radicle emergence. Seeds imbibed in 100 μM abscisic acid (ABA), particularly at 2°C, lost freezing tolerance at a slower rate compared with water-imbibed seeds. Seeds imbibed in water either at 23°C for 16 h, or 8°C for 6 days, or 2°C for 6 days were not germinable after storage at −6°C for 10 days. Seeds imbibed in ABA at 23°C for 24 h, or 8°C for 8 days, or 2°C for 15 days were highly germinable after 40 days at a constant −6°C. Desiccation injury induced at a high temperature (60°C), as with injury induced by freezing, was found to be a function of imbibition temperature and time.