Fragile seeds sprouted in-vitro

January 6, 2015 by Kerry Faulkner, Science Network WA
Multiple Gahnia radula plants can be produced by culturing seeds in the laboratory, enabling widespread planting for site rehabilitation. Credit: Dr Andrea Kodym

Tissue culture technology is helping scientists to grow a native sedge notoriously difficult to germinate naturally.  

UWA researcher Dr Shane Turner is based at Kings Park Botanic Gardens and part of a team that successfully cultivated the native sedge, Gahnia radula, in-vitro.

Dr Turner says natural germination of G. radula could take up to three years, but using in-vitro fertilisation, researchers are generating up to six new plants per seed, every six to eight weeks.

A small, tufted plant endemic to south-eastern Australia, G. radula is commonly found in woodlands and important for its ability to suppress weeds, prevent soil erosion and provide food and shelter for wildlife. 

It is a popular species for revegetation projects, like mine site rehabilitation, because of its resistance to root disease and tolerance to drought. 

But Dr Turner says the plant is extremely difficult to propagate because of low and infrequent seeding, and the failure of sown fruits to germinate.     

"On that odd occasion when we do get quality seed and try to sow and germinate it, then by-and-large nothing happens whatsoever."

Cracking the seed cap

Dr Turner says little is known about the plant's resistance to germination, but the seed's 'nutlet' could be part of the problem.

Gahnia radula in the field (a, b, c) and dissected (d) to reveal the nutlet (e)  Credit: Dr Shane Turner
"The true seed…is locked up in an endospermous cap, which is very small, a bit like an olive pip, and seems to restrict the ability of the true seed to germinate," Dr Turner says.

"Using , we can break open that cap and take out the true , which is quite delicate and somewhat fragile.

"When we surface sterilise it, we can actually put it in a tissue culture environment and give it some plant hormones, and they will start to germinate quite readily.

"Once we have it in that environment, we can give it lots of that tell it to grow lots of leaves and shoots.

"When it's up and going, we can take each of those shoots off every couple of weeks and grow that in its own right, in another container."

Dr Turner says the research is about finding solutions to problems and then offering that knowledge to people working in the field.

He says tissue culture technology is now used in WA nurseries to propagate species for mine site rehabilitation.  

"From a restoration or rehabilitation perspective, it is very important to be able to propagate [plants] in reasonable numbers," he says.

Explore further: How seeds recognise the seasons

Related Stories

How seeds recognise the seasons

December 16, 2014

Scientists at the University of York have played a key role in new research into the way 'mother' plants use their memory of the seasons to teach their seeds the most advantageous time to germinate.

Seed workshop bears conservation fruits 

April 7, 2014

Researchers have pooled their expertise to investigate factors that affect the survival of seeds, resulting in a framework that can help both eradicate weeds and maintain desirable plant populations.

Seed germination regulators for optimising harvests

December 10, 2014

The timing of seed germination is crucial for optimising harvests. Pre-harvest sprouting is prevented when seeds enter a dormant state, but a high level of dormancy has economic repercussions. Now, using RNA and sequence ...

Recommended for you

Scientists ID another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon

January 19, 2019

Over the years, scientists have identified dams, pollution and vessel noise as causes of the troubling decline of the Pacific Northwest's resident killer whales. Now, they may have found a new and more surprising culprit: ...

Researchers come face to face with huge great white shark

January 18, 2019

Two shark researchers who came face to face with what could be one of the largest great whites ever recorded are using their encounter as an opportunity to push for legislation that would protect sharks in Hawaii.

Why do Hydra end up with just a single head?

January 18, 2019

Often considered immortal, the freshwater Hydra can regenerate any part of its body, a trait discovered by the Geneva naturalist Abraham Trembley nearly 300 years ago. Any fragment of its body containing a few thousands cells ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.