The seed germination is a key moment for plants. Rapid and committing, germination initiates a sophisticated developmental programme, exhibiting growth spurts, rhythms, orientation to light, humidity, temperature and gravity, and a certain amount of unpredictability. Interestingly, to date, there is no method to assess the capacity of an individual seed to germinate, without attempting to germinate it. The overall aim of our project is to investigate the biophysical basis of rhythmic growth in young seedlings, in a way to develop a reliable diagnostic method to measure germinability. Using innovative and sensitive biophysical methods, we have started to unveil phenomenologically intriguing signatures of seedling growth: root growth is accompanied by self-generated nanoscale mechanical vibrations (Robert, Bristol) and ultraweak photon emissions (Gallep, UNICAMP). We hypothesize that emission of vibrations and light could constitute a thus far elusive, yet most valuable, diagnostic features of seed health and potential for germination. Here, we propose to study seed germination using: 1) nanoscale mechanical measurement, using low power infrared laser Doppler vibrometry and atomic force microscopy, and 2) ultraweak photon emission, using photon multipliers. To do so, we will use existing instrumentation and also develop new interdisciplinary experiments that uniquely integrate the complementary analytical techniques used in both groups. We might measure vibrations and photons simultaneously in seeds initiating their germination, and at the early stages of development. The international collaboration has ongoing support from UK up to 2020 (BBSRC), and a new proposal was submitted to support new facilities, training costs and student scholarship (Newton Fund).
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: