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Seed Priming of Trifolium repens L. Improved Germination and Early Seedling Growth on Heavy Metal-Contaminated Soil


Seed priming effects on Trifolium repens were analysed both in Petri dishes and in two soils (one unpolluted soil and a soil polluted with Cd and Zn). Priming treatments were performed with gibberellic acid 0.1 mM at 22 °C during 12 h or with polyethylene glycol (−6.7 MPa) at 10 °C during 72 h. Both priming treatments increased the germination speed and the final germination percentages in the presence of 100 μM CdCl2 or 1 mM ZnSO4. Flow cytometry analysis demonstrated that the positive effect of priming was not related with any advancement of the cell cycle in embryos. Seed imbibition occurred faster for primed seeds than for control seeds. X-ray and electronic microscopy analysis suggested that circular depressions on the seed coat, in addition to tissue detachments inside the seed, could be linked to the higher rate of imbibition. Priming treatments had no significant impact on the behaviour of seedlings cultivated on non-polluted soil while they improved seedling emergence and growth on polluted soil. The two priming treatments reduced Zn accumulation. Priming with gibberellic acid increased Cd accumulation by young seedlings while priming with polyethylene glycol reduced it. Priming improved the light phase of photosynthesis and strengthened the antioxidant system of stressed seedlings. Optimal priming treatment may thus be recommended as efficient tools to facilitate revegetation of former mining area.

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Polyethylene glycol





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Gibberellic acid


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This work was supported by the European Union and by the Région Wallonne of Belgium (Division générale de la Recherche et de la Coopération scientifique) through the Convention First-Europe Objectif 1 No. EP1A320501R051F/415734 (2004–2008). The authors thank Dr S. Rios Ruiz, University of Alicante, for support with the electron microscopy and Dr. T. Lambrechts for precious help in soil analysis.

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Correspondence to Stanley Lutts.

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Laurence Galhaut and Alexis de Lespinay contributed equally to this work.

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Galhaut, L., de Lespinay, A., Walker, D.J. et al. Seed Priming of Trifolium repens L. Improved Germination and Early Seedling Growth on Heavy Metal-Contaminated Soil. Water Air Soil Pollut 225, 1905 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-014-1905-1

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  • Polluted soils
  • Germination
  • Revegetation
  • Seed priming
  • White clover (Trifolium repens)