Seed quality standards enable seed users to achieve their objectives in the establishment of uniform seedlings to a high and reliable level for a range of agricultural and horticultural crops, growing systems and market outlets. Quality standards of commercial seed lots are determined by their positions on the seed survival curves and the shape of their germination progress curves. Although comparative descriptions of germination curves can be achieved by the calculation of the mean germination time (MGT; delay to radicle emergence), single early counts of radicle emergence provide a convenient means of predicting MGT and differences between seed lots. Evidence is presented for an ageing and metabolic repair hypothesis as the overall physiological basis to explain the principles behind the standard germination and vigour tests (ageing, electrolyte leakage, cold test, germination rate and seedling size). The work of the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) in developing convenient, inexpensive and internationally repeatable tests is illustrated.
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