Over the past few decades seed physiology research has contributed to many important scientific discoveries and has provided valuable tools for the production of high quality seeds. An important instrument for this type of research is the accurate quantification of germination; however gathering cumulative germination data is a very laborious task that is often prohibitive to the execution of large experiments.
In this paper we present the GERMINATOR package: a simple, highly cost-efficient and flexible procedure for high-throughput automatic scoring and evaluation of germination that can be implemented without the use of complex robotics. The GERMINATOR package contains three modules: (i) design of experimental setup with various options to replicate and randomize samples; (ii) automatic scoring of germination based on the color contrast between the protruding radicle and seed coat on a single image; and (iii) curve fitting of cumulative germination data and the extraction, recap and visualization of the various germination parameters.
The curve-fitting module enables analysis of general cumulative germination data and can be used for all plant species. We show that the automatic scoring system works for Arabidopsis thaliana and Brassica spp. seeds, but is likely to be applicable to other species, as well.
In this paper we show the accuracy, reproducibility and flexibility of the GERMINATOR package. We have successfully applied it to evaluate natural variation for salt tolerance in a large population of recombinant inbred lines and were able to identify several quantitative trait loci for salt tolerance. GERMINATOR is a low-cost package that allows the monitoring of several thousands of germination tests, several times a day by a single person.