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Keywords:

  • Gibberellins;
  • hormonal balance;
  • secondary dormancy;
  • seed bank;
  • vitamin E;
  • Xyridaceae

Abstract

Temperature and humidity are the main factors influencing seed viability, dormancy and longevity of buried seeds. Unfortunately, very little is known about such processes in species of tropical regions, where temperature does not show major seasonal variations. The extent to which germination capacity, phytohormones and vitamin E levels were altered after burial of seeds of Xyris bialata and X. peregrina (Xyridaceae), two species endemic to rupestrian fields of Brazil, was examined. After 2 months of burial, seed germination capacity remained constant, which is associated with decreases in ABA and IAA content in both species. During this period, zeatin levels also decreased in X. bialata, but not in X. peregrina, the latter showing much lower levels of ABA. During the summer (rainy season), seeds of both species experienced a progressive, but severe, decrease in germination capacity, which reversed at the end of the winter (dry season), thus suggesting secondary dormancy. This dormancy appeared to be caused by drastic decreases in GAs, rather than increases in ABA. Levels of GA4 decreased to non-detectable values during dormancy in both species. Furthermore, zeatin levels decreased in X. bialata but not in X. peregrina during this period. Both species accumulated γ-tocopherol as the major vitamin E form, and levels of this antioxidant remained constant or even increased during seed burial; however, X. bialata seeds showed a significant decrease in α-tocopherol during seed burial and dormancy. It is concluded that in X. peregrina and X. bialata, (i) burial causes significant changes in the phytohormone levels of seeds; (ii) secondary dormancy is induced in seeds; (iii) a GA4 decrease, rather than an ABA increase, seems to be involved in the induction of secondary dormancy; and (iv) reductions in α-tocopherol in buried seeds are not necessarily indicative of reduced germination capacity.