Seed Biology

The seed is the beginning and the end of the life cycle of many higher plants. Seeds are extremophiles and can tolerate very severe stresses, including heat, cold, desiccation, and high pressure. These attributes make seeds the ultimate means of survival of species and their populations.

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Seed germination and dormancy represent key ecological and agronomical traits that determine plant establishment in natural or agricultural ecosystems. Seeds are necessary for sustainable production of food, animal feed and bioenergy. At $30 billion annually, the seed trade contributes significantly to the global economy.

Our projects address both fundamental and applied aspects of seeds. We are interested in mechanisms by which seeds sense the environment and adjust their timing of germination so as to maximize the probability of survival. One such mechanism is seed dormancy. We also study the remarkable stress tolerance of seeds. We are interested in how seeds are able to withstand severe dehydration and how they can survive for prolonged periods (up to hundreds of years).

On the applied side we attempt to integrate fundamental knowledge of seed biology with applied aspects of seed quality. We are particularly interested in the genetic components of seed quality.

The significance of our research is in the understanding key events of seed dormancy and germination and other traits, but always with a view to the 'big picture', relating molecular and cellular events to the physiological changes that take place concurrently and in dependence of the (changing) environment.