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The longevity of crop seeds stored under ambient conditions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2009

Manuela Nagel
Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung (IPK), Corensstrasse 3, D-06466Gatersleben, Germany
Andreas Börner*
Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung (IPK), Corensstrasse 3, D-06466Gatersleben, Germany
*Correspondence Email:


The ability of crop seeds to retain their viability over extended periods of uncontrolled temperature and/or relative humidity conditions has not been widely investigated, although this is an important issue for genebank management. We report here the response of 18 crop species to storage for up to 26 years at 20.3 ± 2.3°C and 50.5 ± 6.3% relative humidity. Germination rates decreased in a sigmoid fashion, but the curve parameters were species characteristic. Pea, common bean and maize seeds retained their viability over the longest period (23, 21 and 19 years, respectively). In contrast, chive seeds survived for only 5 years and lettuce for 7 years. In addition to this interspecific variability, there were also indices for intraspecific variability, particularly in bean and chive seeds, just as in collard, lupin, poppy, wheat and maize seeds. A significant correlation was obtained between germination performance in the laboratory and seedling emergence following autumn sowing. Seeds in which oil was the major seed storage component were more short lived, whereas carbohydrates or proteins did not show an effect on seed longevity.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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