Direct seeding is one of the most promising methods in restoration ecology, but low field seedling emergence from pioneer tree seeds still reduces its large scale applicability. The aim of this research was to evaluate seed priming for the pioneer tree species Guazuma ulmifolia. Priming treatments were selected based on seed hydration curves in water and in PEG 8000 solution. Seeds were primed in water for 16 h and in Polyethylene glycol - PEG 8000 (-0.8 MPa for 56 and 88 h) at 20ºC to reach approximately 30% water content. Half of the seed sample of each treatment was dried back to the initial moisture content (7.2%); both dried and non-dried primed seeds as well as the unprimed seeds (control) were tested for germination (percentage and rate) and vigor (electrical conductivity of seed leachates). Seedling emergence percentage and rate were evaluated under greenhouse conditions, while seedling length and uniformity of seedling development were estimated using the automated image analysis software SVIS®. Primed seeds showed the highest physiological potential, which was mainly demonstrated by image analysis. Fresh or dried primed seeds in water for 16 h and in PEG (-0.8 MPa) for 56 h, and fresh primed seeds in PEG for 88 h, improved G. ulmifolia germination performance. It is suggested that these treatments were promising to enhance efficiency of stand establishment of this species by direct seeding in restoration ecology programs.
SVIS®; forest seeds; seed vigor; restoration ecology; direct seeding