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A fast ethanol assay to detect seed deterioration

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2011

Jan Kodde
Plant Research International B.V., PO Box 619, 6700APWageningen, The Netherlands
Wayne T. Buckley
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Brandon Research Centre, PO Box 1000A, R.R. #3 Brandon, ManitobaR7A 5Y3, Canada
Corine C. de Groot
Bejo Zaden BV., PO Box 50, 1749ZHWarmenhuizen, The Netherlands
Marie Retiere
Plant Research International B.V., PO Box 619, 6700APWageningen, The Netherlands
Ana Marcela Viquez Zamora
Wageningen University, Horticultural Production Chains Group, PO Box 630, 6700APWageningen, The Netherlands
Steven P.C. Groot*
Plant Research International B.V., PO Box 619, 6700APWageningen, The Netherlands
*Correspondence Fax: +31 317 480587 Email:


The most common way to test seed quality is to use a simple and reliable but time- and space-consuming germination test. In this paper we present a fast and simple method to analyse cabbage seed deterioration by measuring ethanol production from partially imbibed seeds. The method uses a modified breath analyser and is simple compared to gas chromatographic or enzymatic procedures. A modified method using elevated temperatures (40°C instead of 20°C) shortened the assay time and improved its sensitivity. The analysis showed an inverse correlation between ethanol production and seed quality (e.g. the final percentages or speed of germination and the number of normal seedlings). The increase in ethanol production was observed when cabbage seeds were deteriorated by storage under ambient conditions or hot water treatments, both of which reduced the number of normal seedlings. Premature seeds produced more ethanol upon imbibition than mature seeds. Ethanol production occurred simultaneously with oxygen consumption, indicating that lack of oxygen is not the major trigger for ethanol production.

Research Papers
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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