Seed that attains maximum viability and vigour is physiologically mature, and thereafter deterioration begins (Powell and Matthews, 1984). Seed should be harvested ideally when it has attained physiological maturity and has not started to deteriorate. Reaching greatest dry mass is generally correlated with optimum maturity and quality as quantified by maximum germination in controlled tests. This state may not correlate with the maximum seedling vigour under field conditions. For growers of vegetable Brassica, the difference between the capacity to germinate and seedling vigour has crucial significance. Seed is very expensive and forms a considerable element in the variable costs of growing each crop. The costs of propagating excess plants where the seed merchant makes an erroneously low estimate of viability place a substantial financial burden on the grower.
Simply expressing the quality of seed by germination and purity values fails to reflect the potential field performance and the cost-benefits of the products from one seed house compared with another. In consequence, attempts have been made to establish laboratory tests that quantify the future potential vigour of seedlings in the field and translations of this into 'useable plants' that are placed in the field.
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