Arabidopsis in the wild—the effect of seasons on seed performance

Souza Vidigal, Deborah de; He, Hanzi; Hilhorst, Henk W.M.; Willems, Leo A.J.; Bentsink, Leónie


Climate changes play a central role in the adaptive life histories of organisms all over the world. In higher plants, these changes may impact seed performance, both during seed development and after dispersal. To examine the plasticity of seed performance as a response to environmental fluctuations, eight genotypes known to be affected in seed dormancy and longevity were grown in the field in all seasons of two years. Soil and air temperature, day length, precipitation, and sun hours per day were monitored. We show that seed performance depends on the season. Seeds produced by plants grown in the summer, when the days began to shorten and the temperature started to decrease, were smaller with deeper dormancy and lower seed longevity compared to the other seasons when seeds were matured at higher temperature over longer days. The performance of seeds developed in the different seasons was compared to seeds produced in controlled conditions. This revealed that plants grown in a controlled environment produced larger seeds with lower dormancy than those grown in the field. All together the results show that the effect of the environment largely overrules the genetic effects, and especially, differences in seed dormancy caused by the different seasons were larger than the differences between the genotypes.