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Sallubrious

Germinating low viability seeds

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I've had a batch of Acacia seeds for a few years that I'd assumed were duds. I've done two germination tests with them using small batches and both times I got less than 5% to germinate - using scarification on one batch and hot water on the other. I've also given a few away to other people and they had even lower germination rates.

I was about to throw them last week and I decided to give them one more chance to live using a method that I've had good success with every time I've tried it.

I gave them the normal hot water treatment and then sprinkled them over the top of some seed raising mix. I then covered them with layer of worm compost about 10 mm deep. The compost had been mixed with about 30% biochar and aged for a few months. After that I dug some worms out of the compost and placed them on top of compost in the pot, they quickly burrowed into the pots. Next I covered the pot with a light layer of leaf mulch which I scraped up of the ground near my worm form.

I gave it a quick water and then buried the pot in my worm farm so the compost/mulch was level with the worm compost.

Six days later and the mulch had started lift so I knew there was some action going on in the pot. I gave the pot a water with hose and about twenty seedlings poked their heads up . Over the next few days many more came up. I planted just over 80 seeds and I'd estimate that there are now about sixty seedlings that have germinated.

So that's roughly 75 % germination rate from seeds that were for the most part useless. I don't know why the wormfarm has this effect, I've tried it a few times just with worm compost with no worms and it doesn't work any better than seed raising mix. I don't know if it is something in the worms gut abrading the seeds or if something they exude causes seeds to germinate, but it certainly works every time I do it. Fresh worm castings also have high ratio of bacteria to fungi too ( I read somewhere that the bacteria in a worms gut kills fungi and most pathogens) so maybe they prevent the seeds from rotting before they germinate.

I don't know if it will work the same in a small worm farm (they tend to be a boggy mess), I do mine in bathtubs so the top level of the compost has almost the perfect moisture level.

I'll get some pics up tonight if I get a chance.

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"( I read somewhere that the bacteria in a worms gut kills fungi and most pathogens) so maybe they prevent the seeds from rotting before they germinate."

i think your onto something here! that's a huge germination rate increase!!

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I wonder if there is such a thing as a desert worm so that you could use this method for cacti....

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That's amazing success! Maybe it's the consistent warmth as well as soil organisms? You say it works on Acacia what other seeds have you tried using this method?

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I wonder if there is such a thing as a desert worm so that you could use this method for cacti....

they do exist, i saw it in a movie so i know it's true! they were kinda dangerous though, think they called them "Sandworms".

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sallyD, this incredible news, great you shared it with us.

my sometimes big wormfarms, produced aswell, without any work, often most of my vegie and fruit seedlings.

you make an excellent point, saying smaller wormfarms, might produce a different result, and i think, it's aswell largly connected with, how moist your worm farm is, on the top. my worm farms, which were designed to produce bait worms, i keept soggy wet, and those ones might not be so good for, your idea. soggy is only possible if you, have already lot's of castings, and use only manure, but i did put scraps there aswell a bit, worm farmers would understand me...

it would be super, if other people could produce the same result, but where do we get crappy acacia seeds from?

i wont stick my head out too far, but phleb & obtusi seeds store extreemly well, even if not kept in the fridge.

they definately are good, after 10 and 15 years of room storage.

some people guess, they store for very long.

so i guess, something bad happend to your seeds and the worms reverse it.

if you still have some of those seeds, i offer to duplicate your idea, using my worm farm.

naturaly, i would first try the normal, hot water treatment aswell.

worm farms and compost, contain what i call virulenz (german word sorry) and those invisible things are great helpers, no doubt.

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That's amazing success! Maybe it's the consistent warmth as well as soil organisms? You say it works on Acacia what other seeds have you tried using this method?

Yeah it's hard to say excactly what causes it, my wormfarms are humming with all sorts of life and they tend to keep a constant temp so that definitely helps.

I know compost worms produce a lot of enzymes too, so maybe this helps break down the seed coat in an environment not conducive to detrimental fungi etc.

I first tried it with some 10 year old tomato seeds when I noticed tomatoe seedlings popping up in the worm farm and nearly all of them grew. Since then I've done it with capsicums, citrus, beans, cucumbers, pumpkins and when I used to smoke pot I did it with MJ seeds.

So it seems like the seed doesn't have to pass through the worms gut. Just being in contact with worms and their fresh castings seems to work for most seeds.

The seedlings that grow from the worm farm are almost always much healthier and faster growing than the same seeds sown in a commercial seed raising mix too.

@ Planthelper

I don't know why those seeds were so difficult to germinate with normal methods, they were from a WA ebay seller and they were the only batch I ever had problems with. Normally their seeds are excellent. Maybe they were collected after rain and had some fungal issues. Just a wild guess, I really have no idea why that batch was below par.

I planted all the seeds from that batch, so unfortunately we won't be able to replicate it for more insight.

I like that word virulenz, the unseen forces at the beginning of life - or something like that :unsure:

It won't add any weight to the discussion but here's a pic of the babies, they've been in all day full sun with no problems.

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That is really awesome indeed! It would be interesting to see how fresh compost fares against the worm farm.
Also, was the commercial seed-raising mix one that contains fungicide?

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That's a really interesting find, thanks for sharing that Sally. Might have to send some interesting seeds your way, if my methods fail me.

On another note, I've read previously (can't for the life of me find the article) that worm 'urine' increased the production of the alkaloid Capsaicin in chilli's. I've often wondered if it would have similar effects on other alkaloids.

Edit: Similar article found.

Worm Juice:

Worm juice consists of a number of components that provide benefits to plant health.
Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium are available in a high number of plant-available forms to allow nutrient absorption through all plant pathways.
Plant growth promoters (plant hormones) are also detected in the product. These include (but are not limited to) Auxins, Cytokinins and Gibberellins all of which regulate cell development, growth and elongation.
Microbial loading is very high in worm juice. There are a number of beneficial bacteria that offer synergistic assistance to the plant. Such bacteria colonise the plant rhizosphere (root zone) to extend root surface area and thus increase nutrient/water absorption capabilities. The bacteria also often produce localised chemicals that prevent further colonisation of pathogenic (disease-causing) microbes.
Chitin (a key component of insect exoskeletons) is also contained in worm juice. When detected around plant roots, signalling mechanisms trigger the plant to produce defence chemicals that are shipped all over the plant to deter feeding insects (e.g. aphids, thrips, white flies, caterpillars).

As a summary worm juice feeds plants thoroughly, permits optimal growth regulation, offers microbial pathogen resistance, pest resistance and drought resistance.

Use of this product allows the full genetic potential of the plant to be achieved (i.e. maximising the pungency of a chilli).

http://thechillifactory.com/hottest - Not exactly a journal article, but interesting starting point for research.

Secret to hottest chillies: worm juice

The two worked with honours student Mark Peacock, who was studying chillies at the University of Sydney. Mark's technical skill supplemented the farmers' practical know-how.

Marcel adopted Neil's idea in using liquid runoff from a worm farm - 'worm juice' - to fertilise the crop and he believes this is the secret to the super-hot chilli.

"He originally worked with it but didn't understand why it worked," says Mark, who studied the fertiliser. He discovered that worm juice contains nutrients, plant growth hormones and promoters, beneficial bacteria that colonise the root area, and chitin from dead insects that triggers the plant's natural defence systems.

Mark uses worm juice on the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T chillies growing in his back yard.

"We use very, very similar growing techniques and that probably has the most to do with attaining maximum genetic potential of the chilli," says Mark.

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/aussies-grow-worlds-hottest-chilli.htm

Application of chitin and chitosan as elicitors of coumarins and fluoroquinolone alkaloids in Ruta graveolens L. (common rue).
Orlita A, Sidwa-Gorycka M, Paszkiewicz M, Malinski E, Kumirska J, Siedlecka EM, Łojkowska E, Stepnowski P.
Source

Faculty of Chemistry, University of Gdañsk, ul. Sobieskiego 18, PL 80-952 Gdańsk, Poland.

Abstract:
Common rue (Ruta graveolens L.) accumulates various types of secondary metabolites, such as coumarins furanocoumarins, acridone and quinolone alkaloids and flavonoids. Elicitation is a tool extensively used for enhancing secondary-metabolite yields. Chitin and chitosan are examples of elicitors inducing phytoalexin accumulation in plant tissue. The present paper describes the application of chitin and chitosan as potential elicitors of secondary-metabolite accumulation in R. graveolens shoots cultivated in vitro. The simple coumarins, linear furanocoumarins, dihydrofuranocoumarins and fluoroquinolone alkaloids biosynthesized in the presence of chitin and chitosan were isolated, separated and identified. There was a significant increase in the growth rate of R. graveolens shoots in the presence of either chitin or chitosan. Moreover, the results of the elicitation of coumarins and alkaloids accumulated by R. graveolens shoots in the presence of chitin and chitosan show that both compounds induced a significant increase in the concentrations of nearly all the metabolites. Adding 0.01% chitin caused the increase in the quantity (microg/g dry weight) of coumarins (pinnarin up to 116.7, rutacultin up to 287.0, bergapten up to 904.3, isopimpinelin up to 490.0, psoralen up to 522.2, xanhotoxin up to 1531.5 and rutamarin up to 133.7). The higher concentration of chitosan (0.1%) induced production of simple coumarins (pinnarin up to 116.7 and rutacultin up to 287.0), furanocoumarins (bergapten up to 904.3, isopimpinelin up to 490.0, psoralen up to 522.2, xanhotoxin up to 1531.5) and dihydrofuranocoumarins (chalepin up to 18 and rutamarin up to 133.7). Such a dramatic increase in the production of nearly all metabolites suggests that these compounds may be participating in the natural resistance mechanisms of R. graveolens. The application of chitin- and chitosan-containing media may be considered a promising prospect in the biotechnological production of xanthotoxin, isopimpinelin, psoralen, chalepin or methoxylated dictamnine derivatives.

Dont have access to the article or time to search at present, but it sounds interesting. Time to start a worm farm :devil:

Edited by Justler
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No CBL I don't normally use fungicides.

For Acacias I normally add a bit river sand to a native mix and screen out all the chunks & then add a bit of compost and that normally works well. Most of the time I've used commercial seed raising mix I've never had great results with it.

Justler - thanks for that, that's an excellent post !

If it gets the juices pumping in a chilli it should work for other plants too :wink:

Edited by SallyD

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thx for the additional info, what you said, makes it even more interressting, because rising old seeds from the dead, might be more logical and do able, using special aids, than seeds which have something wrong with them.

it's pure speculation, but i agree with you, some fungal attack, caused by moisture is probably what happend to the seeds.

it's very common, and people told me about those seeds (white fungus in the pods and on the seeds), they are still ok, to sproute if you do it right away, or very soon, but they don't store well.

just a slight sidetrack, i don't like worms in my pots though, as they clogg the drainage holes, and change the properties of the medium. this creates thermo lines, no good (some areas in the pot are too wet, others too dry)

adding castings aswell causes fungus gnat problems.

i love castings, but only use them when safe to do so.

diluting the castings, with tank water, is i think the best methode, as it gets mixed right thru the potting mix, and doesn't stay on top.

aswell this will kill the gnat larvae, which lives in every worm farm and compost.

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I meant did the 'commercial seed-raising mix' contain fungicides already? :)

At my local big box hardware/garden centre, all of the seed-raising mixes contained fungicide - I couldn't find any without.

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Yeah good point PH, worms in pots are not good. If I was to leave those seedlings in that pot that's had/got worms in it for more than two or three weeks or so they will start to suffer. In around two months many will have died if I leave them in that pot.

Anything germinated this way needs to be re-potted as soon as it's big enough to handle it, or it needs to be planted in the garden.

I find long term use of worm juice can cause potting mix to become repellent because of waxes and oils in the juice. It's nothing a good soak in a bucket won't fix though. Garden soil will drink as much as you can give it without causing any problems though.

CBL - I'm not sure about fungicides in the mix, the bags didn't mention it from memory but it could have been treated

Edited by SallyD

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I thought it would be relevant to post my latest experience with germinating 30 acacia maidenii seeds.

The seeds were placed in a beaker with boiling water poured on top of them and a sprinkle of native seed starter stirred in. Within a few hours some had swallen. Within 12 hours half had swollen and changed red/brown colour.

The swallen seeds were removed and buried 1cm deep into a 50/50 mix of sifted native potting mix and propagation sand. (Batch 1)

Most of the remaining seeds had swollen by 72hours. These seeds were placed on the surface of the same potting mix used earlier, except 1 cm of sandy clay was placed on top. (Batch 2)

This was the result:

Aa2

Aa1

Only 3 Seeds germinated from the first batch, but nearly all germinated from the second.

I can only speculate as to why the second batch of seeds germinated so well.

Maybe good microbial growth occurred with the silty clay placed on top

Maybe the native seed starter needed time to soak in.

Maybe the viable seeds took more time to swell.

Whatever was the reason... next time i germinate acacia seeds I will definitely follow the technique used on the second batch.

Edited by juzzoa
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^^^ I reckon its the layer on top of the second batch that would have helped the cause. Generally I tamp down my germination mix so its level, put the seeds on top and then cover with a couple mm of fine grade vermiculite.

This holds moisture evenly around the seed in the most effective way.

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