Seed dormancy is one of the most important adaptive mechanisms in plants, optimizing germination, seedling emergence, and establishment to ensure these processes occur when environmental conditions are favorable for plant survival and growth. Endemic to rocky environments of the southern Atacama Desert, the Austral papaya (Carica chilensis) is the papaya species with the southernmost distribution within the Caricaceae, thriving in the most extreme environmental conditions. This threatened plant exhibits low natural regeneration, primarily attributed to low germination, yet no information regarding seed dormancy release is available. In this study, we investigated the dormancy-break and germination requirements of C. chilensis. We hypothesized that if C. chilensis seeds exhibit physiological dormancy, then seeds with reduced moisture content and those treated with chemicals or growth hormones would exhibit higher germination percentages and faster germination than control seeds akin to other members of Caricacea. Our results confirmed this prediction and revealed that ultra-drying (< 3% moisture content) and treating seeds with sulfuric acid, gibberellic acid, or potassium nitrate are the most effective methods for germinating C. chilensis. Consequently, we suggest using these treatments to propagate this threatened papaya species.
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