Increased germination of diverse crop-wild hybrid sunflower seeds

Kristin L. Mercer, Ruth G. Shaw, Donald L. Wyse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Gene flow from crop fields to wild populations produces hybrids that often differ from their wild counterparts in growth form, phenology, and life history characteristics. Germination and dormancy dynamics have a strong influence on population persistence, competitive dynamics, and ultimately, plant fitness. They may also play a role in modifying crop gene introgression, which has been of primary interest since the release of transgenic crops. We investigated how seed germination and dormancy were affected by sunflower crop-wild hybridization in both laboratory and field experiments. Hybridization increased seed germination and decreased dormancy. Of the nine wild populations we assayed, most of their hybrids had higher germination than the wilds of the same population. However, absolute germination levels varied by population and testing environment. Hybrids produced by three different crop lines differed in germination, and their germination rankings shifted across populations. Increased germination in hybrids could accelerate crop gene introgression, provided that hybrids germinate in an appropriate period. Differences in relative germination of wild and hybrid seed indicated that the effect of germination on introgression will likely vary by population due, in part, to initial levels of dormancy in the population. Therefore, the implications of gene flow from crops with novel characteristics or from transgenic crops will also vary by population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)845-854
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2006


  • Crop-wild hybrids
  • Dormancy
  • Gene flow
  • Genetic differentiation
  • Genetic variation
  • Germination
  • Introgression
  • Sunflower
  • Transgenic crops


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