Four independent experiments were designed to investigate the effects of the pericarp on seed imbibition, dehydration, germination, seedling establishment, and seed longevity in the field in seeds of Hedysarum scoparium Fisch. et Mey. The results showed that the presence of the pericarp decreased seed imbibition rates in the first 6 h, but the seeds attained significantly higher final water content after 24 h of soaking. The pericarp caused seed dormancy, and removal of the pericarp improved the germination percentage to 90 from 44%. In the pot experiment, where the level of moisture was maintained at field capacity (control), seeds with the pericarp removed had significantly improved seedling establishment. However, no statistical differences were observed in seedling establishment when the experiment was repeated under dry conditions at 40% of the field water capacity. The seedling biomass derived from seeds without the pericarp was much higher in the control but the trend was reversed under dry conditions. For seed longevity, 2 months burial in the field killed almost all seeds without the pericarp, while more than 70% of the seeds with the pericarp intact remained viable. These results indicated that the pericarp was beneficial for seedling establishment and seed longevity in arid environments. The results of this study may have practical application in grassland restoration in dry areas, especially for aerial seeding, which has been extensively used in the northern part of China.
Dehydration Seedling biomass Seed dormancy Seed longevity Water stress