Seed priming with chitosan improves maize germination and seedling growth in relation to physiological changes under low temperature stress

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Low temperature stress during germination and early seedling growth is an important constraint of global production of maize. The effects of seed priming with 0.25%, 0.50%, and 0.75% (w/v) chitosan solutions at 15 °C on the growth and physiological changes were investigated using two maize (Zea mays L.) inbred lines, HuangC (chilling-tolerant) and Mo17 (chilling-sensitive). While seed priming with chitosan had no significant effect on germination percentage under low temperature stress, it enhanced germination index, reduced the mean germination time (MGT), and increased shoot height, root length, and shoot and root dry weights in both maize lines. The decline of malondialdehyde (MDA) content and relative permeability of the plasma membrane and the increase of the concentrations of soluble sugars and proline, peroxidase (POD) activity, and catalase (CAT) activity were detected both in the chilling-sensitive and chilling-tolerant maize seedlings after priming with the three concentrations of chitosan. HuangC was less sensitive to responding to different concentrations of chitosan. Priming with 0.50% chitosan for about 60˜64 h seemed to have the best effects. Thus, it suggests that seed priming with chitosan may improve the speed of germination of maize seed and benefit for seedling growth under low temperature stress.

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