What Factors Affect Seed Dormancy And How Can It Be Broken?

Hey there! Have you ever wondered why some seeds take forever to sprout while others seem to burst into life with minimal effort? Well, in this article, we’ll be exploring the fascinating world of seed dormancy and uncovering the factors that can influence it. From temperature and moisture levels to external triggers and genetic factors, we’ll dive into the science behind seed dormancy and also explore various methods to break it. So, if you’re ready to unravel the mysteries of seed dormancy and learn how to give your plants a head start, let’s jump right in!

Factors Affecting Seed Dormancy

Seed dormancy refers to the dormancy period that certain seeds undergo before they can germinate and grow into plants. During this period, the seed remains inactive and does not sprout, even when exposed to suitable environmental conditions. Several factors influence seed dormancy, including external factors and internal factors.

External Factors

External factors are environmental conditions that affect seed dormancy. These factors include temperature, light, water, oxygen, and chemical factors.

Internal Factors

Internal factors, on the other hand, are characteristics of the seed itself that contribute to the dormancy period. These factors primarily revolve around the seed coat and embryo dormancy.

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Temperature plays a crucial role in seed dormancy. Both low and high temperatures can affect the germination process.

Effects of Low Temperature

Exposure to extremely low temperatures can inhibit seed germination. Cold temperatures can cause the formation of ice crystals within the seed, damaging its cellular structure and inhibiting growth.

Effects of High Temperature

Similarly, high temperatures can also impact seed dormancy. Excessive heat can cause seed coat hardening or trigger the production of heat-sensitive compounds that hinder germination.


Light is another factor that affects seed dormancy. Different seeds have varying light requirements for germination.

Effects of Light on Seed Dormancy

Some seeds require light for germination. These are known as light-dependent seeds. Light triggers the production of specific plant hormones that promote germination. Without adequate light exposure, these seeds may remain dormant.

Effects of Darkness on Seed Dormancy

Conversely, some seeds require darkness to break dormancy. Light-sensitive seeds, also known as light-avoiding seeds, rely on the absence of light to initiate germination. Exposure to light can suppress the germination process in these seeds.


Water availability and absorption also play a significant role in seed dormancy.

Effects of Water Availability on Seed Dormancy

The availability of water is crucial for seeds to break dormancy. Dry conditions can prevent the seed from absorbing water, hindering germination. Adequate water availability is necessary for the seed to activate the enzymes required for growth.

Effects of Water Absorption on Seed Dormancy

Water absorption triggers biochemical reactions within the seed, leading to the breakdown of stored nutrients and the activation of growth-promoting enzymes. Lack of water absorption can impede germination and maintain dormancy.


Oxygen levels in the surrounding environment can affect seed dormancy.

Effects of Oxygen Levels on Seed Dormancy

Seeds require oxygen for cellular respiration, which provides energy for growth. Insufficient oxygen levels can hinder this process and maintain seed dormancy. High oxygen levels, on the other hand, can stimulate germination and break dormancy.

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Chemical Factors

Various chemical factors, such as plant hormones, can influence seed dormancy.

Effects of Gibberellins on Seed Dormancy

Gibberellins are a group of plant hormones that stimulate seed germination. These hormones break down internal barriers within the seed and promote growth. Adequate levels of gibberellins are necessary to overcome dormancy in certain seeds.

Effects of Abscisic Acid on Seed Dormancy

Abscisic acid, another plant hormone, plays a role in seed dormancy maintenance. High levels of abscisic acid prevent germination, while a decrease in its concentration promotes seed dormancy release.

Effects of Ethylene on Seed Dormancy

Ethylene is a gaseous plant hormone that influences seed dormancy. It can either promote seed germination or maintain dormancy, depending on the seed species.

Effects of Other Chemical Compounds on Seed Dormancy

Apart from gibberellins, abscisic acid, and ethylene, various other chemical compounds can impact seed dormancy. These compounds may either inhibit or promote germination, depending on their concentration and the specific seed species.

Seed Coat

The seed coat, also known as the testa, is an important internal factor that affects seed dormancy.

Physical Dormancy

Physical dormancy occurs when the seed coat is impermeable to water and gases, preventing germination. Often, this dormancy can be broken by scarification methods.

Mechanical Dormancy

Mechanical dormancy arises when the seed coat has physical barriers, such as hard tissue or a thick layer, which restrict the entry of water and oxygen. Mechanical dormancy can be overcome by using methods like stratification or mechanical scarification.

Chemical Dormancy

Chemical dormancy occurs when certain chemical substances present in the seed coat inhibit seed germination. Chemical dormancy can be relieved through specific treatments like seed soaking or chemical scarification.

Breaking Seed Dormancy

To break seed dormancy, various methods can be employed.


Scarification involves breaking or weakening the seed coat to allow water absorption and gas exchange. Methods like physical scarification (mechanical or manual), chemical scarification, or heat scarification can be used to break dormancy.

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Stratification exposes the seeds to a period of cold and moist conditions, simulating their natural environment during winter. This process helps overcome dormancy and promotes germination.

Seed Soaking

Seed soaking involves immersing the seeds in water for a specific period. This process helps soften the seed coat and initiates water absorption, ultimately breaking dormancy.

Cold Treatment

Certain seeds require exposure to cold temperatures to break dormancy. Cold treatment, also known as vernalization, can be achieved by refrigerating the seeds for a particular period before sowing.

Smoke Treatment

Smoke treatment involves exposing seeds to smoke or smoke-infused water, simulating the natural occurrence of fires. This treatment stimulates germination in specific seed species.

Chemical Treatment

Chemical treatment involves the use of specific chemicals or plant hormones to break seed dormancy. This method can be effective for seeds with inherent chemical dormancy.

In conclusion, seed dormancy is influenced by several factors, both external and internal. Temperature, light, water, oxygen, and chemical factors can either promote or hinder germination. Additionally, the seed coat and embryo dormancy play important roles in seed dormancy. Breaking seed dormancy requires various methods, such as scarification, stratification, seed soaking, cold treatment, smoke treatment, or chemical treatment. By understanding these factors and employing appropriate techniques, gardeners and growers can effectively promote seed germination and plant growth.