Public Release: 

The secret life of seeds to be discussed at symposium

American Society of Agronomy

Media Invitation. Please RSVP by November 1, 2015

October 20, 2015--Have you ever wondered how a tiny seed can bring forth a vibrant plant? Especially one that gives you mighty tomatoes, squash or beans?

Marc Cohn, a professor at Louisiana State University, has spent his life studying seeds. In particular, he's interested in their vigor, viability, and dormancy - attributes he has acronymed "vivid properties of seeds" [Vi(gor)Vi(ability)D(ormancy)].

"We take seeds for granted. You plant them, they grow, and you're happy. The only time we worry is when they don't grow," says Cohn.

But seeds, their germination and ability to grow into healthy mature plants are the key to a robust food supply. Thus, Cohn has organized a symposium titled Vivid Properties of Seeds at the Synergy in Science ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN. The symposium will be held Tuesday, November 17, 2015. The Synergy in Science meeting is sponsored jointly by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.

Vigor and viability refer to the ability of seeds to create rapid and uniform stands of crops. "We want the seeds to emerge quickly [after planting] and to have synchronized growing seasons." According to Cohn, seeds do have an aging process, and their self-repair mechanisms are important in keeping their vigor and viability.

"When seeds go dormant, they are literally in a state of 'suspended animation'," says Cohn. "The seed doesn't grow, but it doesn't die. A bit of dormancy is a good thing, but too much, or too little, is bad. Dormancy can affect crop quality and the economic yield for growers."

"It's not just about genetics per se, it's how genetics interact with the environment," says Cohn. "Because the environment is varied over different locations [of planting], the seeds will respond differently."

Presenters at the symposium are: Camille Steber, USDA-ARS; Xingyou Gu, South Dakota State; and, Bruce Downie, University of Kentucky.

For more information about the Synergy in Science 2015 meeting, visit https://www.acsmeetings.org/. Media are invited to attend the conference. Pre-registration by Nov. 1, 2015, is required. Visit https://www.acsmeetings.org/newsroom for registration information. For information about the "Vivid Properties of Seeds" symposium, visit https://scisoc.confex.com/scisoc/2015am/webprogram/Session14572.html .

This research is part of the W-3168 (Environmental and Genetic Determinants of Seed Quality and Performance) is a multi-state research fund project, supported by the USDA's Institute of Food & Agriculture. To learn more about W-3168, visit http://www.nimss.org/lgu_v2/homepages/home.cfm?trackID=16536 .

To speak with one of the scientists, contact Susan V. Fisk, 608-273-8091, sfisk@sciencesocieties.org to arrange an interview.

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