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Genetic and molecular markers for seed quality

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The roots of a successful harvest

The successful production of crops is a complex process dependent on a number of factors. Of these, the developments of seeds into healthy seedlings is inarguably the most important step in the cycle.

Health

The study of seed germination is essential in understanding and controlling seedling development. The process can be studied by monitoring the seed cells as they carry out functions such as DNA repair, DNA replication and protein degradation. Advances have now been made which provide a better understanding of the development of seeds and assess their initial quality. Specifically, the pre-germination, or priming, process for tomato and sugar beet seeds has been examined. During the priming step, the proteins that encase the seed dissolve and cell cycle activity is initiated. Study on tomato seeds has revealed that these processes do not happen simultaneously, but that first the storage protein is solubilised and then cell cycle reactivation takes place. Assays have also been developed which allow various checks to be made on the seeds. ELISAs, or enzyme linked immunosorbent assays, are serological tests used to determine seed health. Using subunits from the tomato and the sugar beet, such tests were developed and optimised. These ELISAs provide vital information about the priming process. Through their use, priming treatments can be monitored. They can also be used to determine the biochemical heterogeneity of commercial seed in relation to its physiological heterogeneity. Whether seeds have been primed can also be assessed. This information could be developed further to improve germination rates and at a commercial level to provide information on seed quality.

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