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Crop Science Abstract -

Embryo Culture as a Means to Rescue Deteriorated Maize Seeds


This article in CS

  1. Vol. 36 No. 6, p. 1693-1698
    Received: May 22, 1995

    * Corresponding author(s): eroos@lamar.colostate.edu
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  1. Sheila A. Blackman,
  2. Kathryn L. Brown,
  3. Joseph R. Manalo and
  4. Eric E. Roos 
  1. Weyerhaeuser Tech. Center, WTC-1C2, Tacoma, WA 98477



Seed germplasm is received and stored at genebanks, such as the National Seed Storage Laboratory, to ensure that genetic diversity is available for future plant breeders. On occasion, low viability seeds are received or seeds may deteriorate unexpectedly between scheduled viability tests, resulting in accessions that cannot be successfully regenerated with routine procedures. In 1993 and 1994, experiments were conducted with the objective of developing procedures to improve the survival of low viability maize (Zea mays L.) seeds and thus avoid the loss of potentially valuable genes. To develop a seed rescue protocol, the effects of various antibiotics, C and other nutrient sources, and hormones were evaluated on the growth of excised hybrid maize embryos in tissue culture. Kanamycin and thiram were effective against bacterial and fungal contamination and improved the growth of aged embryos. Among the C sources tested, only sucrose stimulated growth of isolated embryos but not whole seeds. Complete nutrient mixtures containing macro- and micronutrients and vitamins did not stimulate growth of whole embryos, but they stimulated the growth of isolated axes. Among the hormones tested, only gibberellic acid stimulated the growth of the primary root. The seed rescue protocol developed through these experiments was tested on eight endangered maize landrace populations from Argentina. Six of these eight populations contained sufficient seed numbers to compare the embryo culture protocol with whole seed germination. Embryo culture resulted in a twofold increase, on average (range = 0.9–4.0), in plant recovery compared with whole seed germination. This protocol can be used to rescue maize germplasm accessions with a germination percentage below that which results in successful field regeneration.

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