Physical methods for seed invigoration: Advantages and challenges in seed technology

Susana de Sousa Araújo, Stefania Paparella, Daniele Dondi, Antonio Bentivoglio, Daniela Carbonera, Alma Balestrazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

147 Citations (Scopus)


In the context of seed technology, the use of physical methods for increasing plant production offers advantages over conventional treatments based on chemical substances. The effects of physical invigoration treatments in seeds can be now addressed at multiple levels, ranging from morpho-structural aspects to changes in gene expression and protein or metabolite accumulation. Among the physical methods available, “magneto-priming” and irradiation with microwaves (MWs) or ionizing radiations (IRs) are the most promising pre-sowing seed treatments. “Magneto-priming” is based on the application of magnetic fields and described as an eco-friendly, cheap, non-invasive technique with proved beneficial effects on seed germination, vigor and crop yield. IRs, as γ-rays and X-rays, have been widely regarded as a powerful tool in agricultural sciences and food technology. Gamma-rays delivered at low dose have showed to enhance germination percentage and seedling establishment, acting as an actual ‘priming’ treatment. Different biological effects have been observed in seeds subjected to MWs and X-rays but knowledge about their impact as seed invigoration agent or stimulatory effects on germination need to be further extended. Ultraviolet (UV) radiations, namely UV-A and UV-C have shown to stimulate positive impacts on seed health, germination, and seedling vigor. For all mentioned physical treatments, extensive fundamental and applied research is still needed to define the optimal dose, exposition time, genotype- and environment-dependent irradiation conditions. Electron paramagnetic resonance has an enormous potential in seed technology not fully explored to monitor seed invigoration treatments and/or identifying the best suitable irradiation dose or time-point to stop the treatment. The present manuscript describes the use of physical methods for seed invigoration, while providing a critical discussion on the constraints and advantages. The future perspectives related to the use of these approaches to address the need of seed technologists, producers and trade markers will be also highlighted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number646
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Issue numberMAY2016
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2016


  • Hormesis
  • Ionizing radiation
  • Magnetic field
  • Microwaves
  • Seed germination
  • Seed vigor
  • Ultraviolet radiation


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