The cold test is one of the oldest and most acceptable vigour tests as it is used to simulate stress conditions commonly occurring in the field. In recent years, some of South Africa’s top maize hybrids, with high cold test scores, have shown emergence problems under cold, wet planting conditions. It resulted in major complaints from commercial maize producers with sizable claims involved. Therefore, the need arose to find a more sensitive vigour test that takes into account cold, wet conditions. In practice, South African maize producers would not plant if it is too cold and wet. However, cold, wet conditions are commonly experienced during planting time in the main maize production regions of South Africa, especially during October and even November. Furthermore, in most of the commercial maize production areas, such as the western Free State, chances of thunder and hailstorms are high during the planting period. These weather conditions are major causes for sudden drops in temperature and flooding which can expose maize seed and emerging maize seedlings to stress conditions The effects of cold, wet conditions on germination and emergence of nine maize hybrids were investigated in laboratory, glasshouse and field experiments. Growth chamber and glasshouse experiments were conducted under 10°C, 20°C and 30°C and 0, 24, 48 and 72 hours flooding. Field experiments were conducted under different climatic conditions, resulting in cool and wet, cold and wet and favourable conditions during planting. The objectives were to investigate the correlations between different laboratory vigour tests and field emergence of maize hybrids under cold, wet conditions in order to identify the most suitable laboratory vigour test for predicting field emergence under cold, wet conditions. Eight different vigour tests were conducted and each was compared with field emergence under cold, wet conditions. The eight tests conducted, were the cold test, soak test, complex stressing vigour test, electrical conductivity test, accelerated ageing test, tetrazolium test, fast green test and emergence rate test. The soak test was the most sensitive vigour test when considering cold, wet conditions, as it measures seed germination, based on the warm test, after a 48 hour soak in water at 27°C. Correlations found between the soak test and field emergence (53%) under cold, wet conditions was unexpected, since the soak test does not account for low temperatures. The complex stressing vigour test was conducted to study the effect of fluctuating soaking temperatures on germination of maize seed. Seeds of nine maize hybrids were soaked for 48 hours at a moderate temperature (25°C), followed by another 48 hours soak at a low temperature (5°C), and then planted in sand and grown for 4 days at 25°C, before evaluation. Highly significant correlations were found between the complex stressing vigour test and simulated field emergence under both controlled conditions in a glasshouse (89.9%) and cold, wet conditions in the field (90.0%). The complex stressing vigour test was the best test to predict field performance under a wide range of climatic conditions, especially cold, wet conditions. Implementation of the complex stressing test as a routine vigour test, will be to the advantage of maize seed companies, especially in being proactive in predicting emergence of maize hybrids under cold, wet conditions. Copyright
Dissertation (MSc(Agric))--University of Pretoria, 2009.