Understanding the effects of changing temperatures on seed dormancy, seed quality and seed conservation


Plants use temperature as an important signal to modulate seed dormancy and seed longevity, and thus changes to seed germination are a key factor in climate change-led extinction events in plants. Changing temperature also causes lot-to-lot variation in seed properties that confounds seed quality for sale and seed conservation efforts by affecting properties during storage. During dry storage seeds enter a glass-like state which enables them to survive long periods of desiccation, but the temperature at which this glass transition occurs can have important effects on how the seed behaves both during storage and afterwards during germination.

In this project the successful student will investigate how temperature during seed production affects properties of seeds in the Brassica family, working closely with scientists at the John Innes centre and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. You will investigate how temperature affects the levels of key dormancy-inducing proteins in seeds as they desiccate at the end of seed development, and identify variation in Brassica family species that affects their germination or storage properties.

The project will use state-of-the-art molecular and biophysical approaches to understanding how temperature affects seed properties for agriculture and conservation including use of transgenics, fluorescence microscopy, molecular biology and seed biophysics. The successful student will work closely with scientists at The John Innes Centre and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, spending time at both institutions to complete their work. The training  will provide a first class entry into careers in seed biology, either in agriculture, academia or in plant and seed conservation.

This project is a Joint-Studentship with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.


1.Seed life span and food security.

Colville L, Pritchard HW.

New Phytol. 2019 Oct;224(2):557-562. doi: 10.1111/nph.16006.

2.Lipid Thermal Fingerprints of Long-term Stored Seeds of Brassicaceae.

Mira S, Nadarajan J, Liu U, González-Benito ME, Pritchard HW.

Plants (Basel). 2019 Oct 14;8(10):414. doi: 10.3390/plants8100414.

3. Chen X, Yoong FY, O’Neill CM, Penfield S. Temperature during seed maturation controls seed vigour through ABA breakdown in the endosperm and causes a passive effect on DOG1 mRNA levels during entry into quiescence. New Phytol. 2021 Nov;232(3):1311-1322. doi: 10.1111/nph.17646