Seed Breath Analysis

Seed quality control: vigour and seed health

Wageningen Seed Centre (WSC) is developing tests to determine seed health and seed vigour. These tests must assure that only high quality and healthy seeds will be certified and used for cultivation. Some tests are 'high tech', such as DNA chip technology, the application of flow cytometry or immuno-fluorescence.

A seed vigour test has been developed based on the 'breath analysis' of moistened seeds. The test, using a commercial breath analyser, measures ethanol produced by seeds in case of mitochondrial damage. The test shows a clear correlation with seed vigour for several crops:

Kodde et al. 2012. A fast ethanol assay to detect seed deterioration. Seed Science Research 22: 55–62

Other tests are relatively simple, such as the use of specific, minimal growth media. WSC is an active member of the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA), which exchanges novel methodologies. ISTA recommends some tests developed by WSC as standard procedures.