A recent study published in the Journal of Integrative Agriculture examines novel techniques that can aid in the selection and identification of high-quality crop seeds (1). The study, conducted by lead author Sun Qun and researchers from China Agricultural University, presents how headspace-gas chromatography–ion mobility spectrometry (HS-GC-IMS) can be used to significantly improve crop yield.
The study focused on finding a solution for a frequent problem in the agriculture industry – segregating viable seeds from non-viable ones, to improve seed quality and increase crop productivity. Traditional methods for discerning seed viability have long been limited, prompting researchers to explore innovative approaches for more accurate determinations (1).
Employing a multifaceted approach, the research team assessed the efficacy of oxygen consumption (Q) measurements coupled with HS-GC-IMS in identifying and differentiating between live and dead seeds. The oxygen consumption technique yielded promising results, showcasing distinct respiratory disparities between viable and non-viable seeds across various crops including sweet corn, pepper, and wheat.
The team introduced a pioneering variable, Qt, refining the measurement process and significantly correlating with individual seed viability. By pinpointing optimal evaluation timings—6, 9, and 12 h for sweet corn, wheat seeds, and pepper, respectively—the accuracy of viability predictions soared, reaching an impressive 96.2% to 97.7% across different crops (1). Consequently, the elimination of non-viable seeds led to a remarkable surge in germination percentages, elevating them to a perfect 100% (1).
The researchers encountered some challenges in this study. In particular, the researchers tried to use chromatographic peaks and principal component analysis (PCA) to differentiate between the two seed types. Ultimately, this did not work because of the differences in the volatile compounds between the live and dead seeds.
Sun Qun and the team highlighted the significance of their findings, emphasizing the oxygen consumption technique's ability to achieve unparalleled accuracy in identifying seed viability, propelling the crop industry towards a new era of seed quality enhancement.
This study not only introduces an innovative method for accurately evaluating seed viability, but it also underscores its practical implications in improving seed lots and subsequently boosting crop yields. The findings pave the way for a reliable, rapid, and precise assessment of individual seed viability, holding promise for revolutionizing agricultural practices worldwide.
As a result, this study from China presents a new strategy for optimizing seed quality assessments, which in turn could positively affect crop productivity. As scientists continue to use chromatographic techniques to improve agricultural processes, the potential for transforming global agricultural practices and ensuring food security becomes more likely.
(1) Ke-ling, T.; Yu-lin, Y.; Li-ming, Y.; Jian-hua, W.; Qun, S. Discrimination of Individual Seed Viability by Using the Oxygen Consumption Technique and Headspace-Gas Chromatography-Ion Mobility Spectrometry. J. Int. Agric. 2023, 22 (3), 727–737. DOI: 10.1016/j.jia.2022.08.058