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Characterization and definition of embryo dormancy is a major problem, particularly since the phenomenon may be such a relative one. Embryos are generally regarded as dormant when they germinate slowly, produce abnormal seedlings and are unable to germinate within a wide range of temperatures. Germination is now known to be a complex process comprising two successive main phases, “germination sensu stricto” and “growth”. These are not sensitive to the same degree to the same factors. Embryos can be considered dormant when they are unable to achieve the stage of germination sensu stricto. By this definition, breaking of dormancy would thus correspond to the ability of the embryo to achieve this stage. Many experiments using the various treatments available for breaking dormancy have shown that dormancy is located in the embryonic axis, but is controlled by the cotyledons. Many hypotheses have been advanced to explain the mechanisms involved. We suggest a new interpretation: an embryo must be considered as a complex organism, a tiny plant with a root, a bud and two cotyledons. We know that correlations exist between the various parts of the embryo, especially between the cotyledons and the embryonic axis. Thus we conclude that embryo dormancy results from correlations between the various parts of the embryo and that breaking of dormancy corresponds to a modification of these correlations.

Affiliations: 1: Laboratoire de Physiologie des Organes Végétaux après Récolte, C.N.R.S.


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