Poor germination and seedling establishment are major problems in arid and semi-arid environments, and these characteristics are considered to be important factors in later plant growth and yield. Laboratory experiments were conducted on freshly harvested pyrethrum (Tanacetum cinerariifolium) seeds to investigate the effects of light (influenced by the seeding method) and seed hydropriming on germination, and shoot and root growth at 25 °C. Exposure to light could reduce germination from 52% to 22% and increase the mean germination time (MGT) from 7 to 12 days. The responses of hydroprimed and unprimed seeds to salt and drought stress were determined at osmotic potentials of 0 (distilled water), -0.3, -0.6, -0.9, -1.2 MPa in NaCl and PEG6000. Seed germination and seedling growth were inhibited by increasing salt and drought stress. The germination percentage of unprimed seeds was reduced from 52% to 16% in -1.2 MPa NaCl, and no seeds germinated at osmotic potentials =-0.9 MPa PEG. Both shoot and root growth were inhibited at osmotic potentials =-0.9 MPa NaCl and =-0.6 MPa PEG. Hydropriming shortened the delay of MGT at all osmotic potentials, and improved the germination percentage in distilled water (from 52% to 59%) and resistance to salt stress with nearly double germination (from 16% to 29%) at the highest salt concentration. When non-germinated seeds were transferred to distilled water after 20 days of incubation in total up to 12–15% of NaCl and 25–27% of PEG stressed seeds did not recover. These results show that the inhibition of the germination and seedling growth at the same osmotic potential of NaCl and PEG resulted from drought stress rather than salt toxicity, and that hydropriming is an effective tool to improve the quality of pyrethrum seeds.
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