Seed dormancy cycling plays a crucial role in the lifecycle timing of many plants. Little is known of how the seeds respond to the soil seed bank environment following dispersal in spring into the short-term seed bank before seedling emergence in autumn. Seeds of the winter annual Arabidopsis ecotype Cvi were buried in field soils in spring and recovered monthly until autumn and their molecular eco-physiological responses were recorded. DOG1 expression is initially low and then increases as dormancy increases. MFT expression is negatively correlated with germination potential. Abscisic acid (ABA) and gibberellin (GA) signalling responds rapidly following burial and adjusts to the seasonal change in soil temperature. Collectively these changes align germination potential with the optimum climate space for seedling emergence. Seeds naturally dispersed to the soil in spring enter a shallow dormancy cycle dominated by spatial sensing that adjusts germination potential to the maximum when soil environment is most favourable for germination and seedling emergence upon soil disturbance. This behaviour differs subtly from that of seeds overwintered in the soil seed bank to spread the period of potential germination in the seed population (existing seed bank and newly dispersed). As soil temperature declines in autumn, deep dormancy is re-imposed as seeds become part of the persistent seed bank.
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