The wonders of a germinating grain

Date posted: 13 August 2013

Have you been in and looked at our barley plot lately? The grains have germinated and the lovely little green shoots are poking through the soil and reaching towards the sun. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a crop germinate - it’s a sight that delights many farmers.

Barley plants growth and development can be tracked against a special chart developed by scientists. The ‘Zadoks Key’ provides a number from 1 to 100 to reflect a specific growth stage of the plant. For example Growth Stage 10 to 19 is when the plant is just a seedling while stage 60-69 is when the plant is flowering. This is a very handy tool to help farmers decide if and when the plant might need fertiliser or some extra love and care.

Today’s blog focus is on germination (growth stage 0-9).

For a grain to germinate, it must be sown at the correct depth into nutritious, oxygenated, healthy soil. The timing and temperature must also be right. For cereal crops, sowing in May is ideal as the soil is still warm and the winter rains soon begin to fall.

Germination usually begins after a rain as the seed absorbs water and begins to swell. This process triggers many biochemcial reactions within the seed... setting germination in motion! A tiny root breaks through the seed coat and goes in search of water and nutrients. Soon after, a green shoot sprouts out from the seed and stretches towards the surface. Once it has emerged the shoots (called coleoptiles) begin to grow.

Try germinating your own grains at home! Simply place some grains onto moist cotton wool (put this on a saucer) and pop this on the window sill. Can you see the coleoptiles breaking through?

If you want see barley seed germination in action, have a look at this clip.

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