Environmental cues for germination of the invasive bunch grass Pennisetum ciliare (L.) Link

Abstract

Responses of seed germination to air temperature, water potential, light, and smoke were studied in the laboratory for seeds of the invasive bunch grass Pennisetum ciliare (L.) Link (syn. Cenchrus ciliare L.; buffel grass). First introduced to North America during the mid-twentieth Century for establishing pastures, this African bunch grass has become an invasive species of concern. Across all the experiments conducted, a low germination was observed for P. ciliare fascicles that never exceeded 30 % at 21 days after sowing. Optimal day/night air temperatures for germination, controlled with an environmental chamber, were 25/15 and 30/20 °C, while extreme temperatures of 15/5 and 45/35 °C inhibited germination. By sowing seeds of P. ciliare under different water potentials, created with aqueous solutions of polyethylene glycol, an optimum of −0.03 MPa led to the highest germination, while no germination was observed at −1.0 MPa. Monochromatic optical filters were utilized to germinate seeds under various wavelengths, of which red (650 nm) and far red (730 nm) led to the highest germination. In addition, seeds that were incubated in the dark had higher germination than those incubated under white light. Incubation in smoke water, which can stimulate germination of pyrophytic species, resulted in a marginal inhibition of germination compared with imbibition with distilled water.

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Acknowledgments

We thank funding from a “SNI Licenciatura” Grant (102189) from the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, Mexico, and PAPIIT Grants (IN224910, RN204013, IN205616) from the Dirección General del Personal Académico, UNAM. This manuscript was finalized while EdlB held a generous Fulbright NEXUS Fellowship. Cristobal Márquez and Adrián Calleros kindly assisted with preparing the figures.

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Correspondence to Erick de la Barrera.

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Communicated by M. Horbowicz.

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Villa-Reyes, F., de la Barrera, E. Environmental cues for germination of the invasive bunch grass Pennisetum ciliare (L.) Link. Acta Physiol Plant 38, 156 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11738-016-2175-x

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Keywords

  • Apomixis
  • Buffel grass
  • Cenchrus ciliaris
  • Global change
  • Pyrophyte
  • Water potential