Strong seed dormancy has been an obstacle for field production of Echinacea species. Previous research on overcoming Echinacea seed dormancy has been extensive and focused on treatment methods, which involve time and expense, and are incompatible with organic production if synthetic chemicals are used. We have attempted to genetically reduce seed dormancy through selection and breeding in Echinacea, by usingEchinacea pallida as a model species. Three accessions were used in this study. Nine parent plants of each accession selected from early, in-dark germinated seeds (in-dark plants) or from late, in-light seeds (in-light plants) were planted and grouped by accession and germination treatment method for seed production through a polycross method. Germination tests indicated that these in-dark plants produced seed (in-dark seed) with significantly reduced seed dormancy when tested under light or dark condition in comparison to the seed of the in-light plants (in-light seed). Among the three accessions, the in-dark seed germinated at much higher rates than did the in-light seed, more than 2× at 25 °C under light and up to an 83× increase in darkness, and up to an 8× increase over the corresponding parental seed lots under comparable germination conditions. In addition to these increases in germination, the in-dark seed showed early and synchronized germination as compared to the in-light seed. Since these results were achieved through only one cycle of selection and breeding, they strongly suggest that we have developed a very effective method for modifying seed dormancy in Echinacea.
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January 31, 2013