How does nature regulate seed life span?

Seed quality is very important to the Dutch plant breeding industry, which aims for optimized seed production, seed germination and seedling establishment. Two major characteristics that control these seed quality traits are seed dormancy and seed longevity (life span, storability). Dormancy describes a state of metabolic arrest during which normal progression of life activities and development are dramatically reduced or brought to a halt. Dormancy facilitates the survival of organisms (including yeast, nematodes, Drosophila, mammals and plant seeds) under adverse environmental conditions that cannot support the regular course of life.

Recently, we made the remarkable discovery that high seed dormancy correlates with low seed longevity and, vice versa, low seed dormancy with high seed longevity. This discovery contradicts the current consensus that high levels of dormancy correlate with high longevity in plant seeds but also in yeast and mammals. The mechanisms behind this interesting new finding will be studied.