Seed Propagation

For Nursery Professionals and nursery workers; Seed company staff, plant breeders; Environmental or revegetation officers; Anyone else interested in developing a deeper understanding of seed propagation.

Course Code: BHT237
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn the intricacies of propagating plants of all types from seed.


SEED PROPAGATION COURSE
 
This course assumes general foundation knowledge of plant propagation. For those with industry or significant amateur experience, the course may contain some sections that are little more than revision, but for anyone with minimal or no knowledge of seed propagation, some additional reading may be required in parts in order to gain optimum benefit from the course.
Seed propagation isn't always straight forward! Some plants may germinate and grow with ease, but for others, the seed and seedlings must be handled in a very particular way to ensure not only germination, but also survival of the seedling. This is a course for:
  • Nursery Professionals and nursery workers
  • Seed company staff, plant breeders
  • Environmental or re-vegetation officers
  • Anyone else interested in developing a deeper understanding of seed propagation.

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • scope
    • open ground propagation
    • controlled environment propagation
  2. Seed Botany
    • anatomy
    • physiology
    • pollination
    • hybridisation
    • genetic purity, etc.
  3. Seed Sources
    • selection
    • collection
    • timing
    • wild collecting
  4. Seed Storage
    • treatments
    • cleaning
    • drying
    • storage
    • disease control
    • germination testing
  5. Dormancy
    • breaking dormancy
  6. Germinating
    • annuals
    • perennials
    • vegetables
  7. Propagating selected Woody Species
  8. Direct Seeding
    • grasses
    • woody species
    • revegetation projects, etc.
  9. Seedling Management

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Aims

  • Discuss the nature and scope of commercial seed propagation.
  • Explain the botanical characteristics of seed and the processes that occur when a seed germinates.
  • Determine appropriate procedures for harvesting different seeds in different situations.
  • Determine appropriate treatments for different types of seeds following harvest in order to sustain viability.
  • Determine appropriate treatments for breaking dormancy in order to initiate germination with a range of different seeds.
  • Determine how to sow and germinate seed of commonly grown herbaceous plants including vegetables, annuals and perennials.
  • Determine appropriate propagation techniques for a range of woody plants including trees, shrubs, ground covers and climbers.
  • Determine propagation and plant establishment strategies for developing a variety of different types of plantings through direct seeding onto sites where germinated plants will remain permanently in the position where the seed germinates.
  • Manage germinated seedlings as they develop in a way that will optimise the survival rate.

How to Propagate a Plant from Seed

The two main methods of seedling propagation are:
  • Direct sowing – seeds are sown (by hand or machine) into individual pots, planting trays or planting cells (trays with many individual cells that are usually tapered slightly to aid and improve root formation).

  • Broadcast sowing - the seed is onto the trays randomly then ‘pricked out’ as seedlings into individual pots, cells or planting trays when they are large enough to handle.

The direct sowing method is the best approach (if possible), as it produces stronger seedlings and a much stronger natural root system. The advantage of direct sowing is that the natural root system:

  • increases good anchorage
  • reduces wind-throw 
  • has a more efficient up-take system for nutrients and water - which increases growth rates

The broadcast method requires the ‘pricking out’ of seedlings. This method can create problems such as constricted or coiled root systems that can result in J-rooting (curled roots in the planting hole) causing instability (wind-throw), and stress caused by transplanting, resulting in poor or uneven growth.

  • Commercial trees for forestry, fruit trees, ornamental trees etc are best planted by the direct sowing method.

  • Vegetables and colourful annuals and perennials are often sown using the broadcast method and later pricked out into individual pots or communal containers (punnets) of up to 12 per container.

  • Seedlings produced in the open ground are later often sold ‘bare-rooted’, this includes species such as fruit tree root stock, rose root stock and other root stock used for ornamental trees etc. The seeds are usually sown into a seed-lot in quite large numbers.

  • Seedlings of pine trees are also produced in the open-ground and are later sold with a small amount of soil on the roots (but virtually bare-rooted).

  • Field grown seedlings are also dug-up during the dormant season with the root ball and surrounding soil and then wrapped in jute – this is also known as ‘bagged in burlap’ stock.

  • Seedlings propagated in cell trays (ranging in size from 40 to 200 a tray), or individual pots are grown in potting media and sold as soon as they are of a certain size – but not so large as to have constricted root systems. Some forestry plants and re-vegetation seedlings are (usually) best grown in cell trays (eg. eucalypts and acacias). Seedling is often automated (vacuum seeding) – this process usually ensures a uniformity of quality and size of the seedlings that are produced.

  • Plants are also sown into individual pots (a more costly option per plant) to meet the demands of specific buyers such as smaller re-vegetation programs (requiring mixed species), local government, or smaller re-sellers. 


General Soil Preparation

  1. The soil is worked with a range of machinery suited to the situation ie. rotary-hoe plough or specialised equipment that specifically form seed beds or by hand. Smaller equipment is used for in-ground beds that are under-cover (ie. in tunnel houses etc.).

  2. The soil is prepared to a friable tilth.

  3. The seed is either broadcast or sown into trenches and covered with an appropriate amount of soil depending on the size of the seed. Larger hand held as well as mechanical equipment is readily available for broadcasting larger quantities of seed in the field.

  4.  Irrigation will start the germination process so needs to be done as soon as possible after sowing. 

How close the seed is sown depends on the situation.

  • Propagation beds hold plants that are to be transplanted later so these will be sown close together.

  • Seeds that are sown into rows for later budding or grafting will need a greater distance between seedlings to allow for growth and access.

Seed can be sown directly into position into specially prepared seed beds and containers from where germinated seedlings are later transplanted into the permanent position. As mentioned earlier some field grown plants are sown into their permanent position in the first instance (eg. some tree seedlings).

Most commercially supplied seeds come with instructions for sowing. In general though, the following rules should be remembered when sowing seeds:

  • Use good quality seed.

  • Sow at the right time of year. Environmental factors, particularly temperature and moisture levels play an important role in the successful germination of seeds.

  • Do not sow too deeply. In nature seeds are generally dispersed from plants onto the ground surface.

  • Do not sow too thickly. Germinating seedlings will compete for space and nutrients. Pest and disease problems are also generally increased.

  • Have the soil in the beds should be well prepared, or use a good quality seed raising mix when using a container.

  • Maintain adequate moisture for seeds to germinate but don't over-water.
     

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.

Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.

ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.

Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.

Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

ACS is a Preferred Member Training Provider with the Australian Institute of Horticulture. ACS students meeting AIH criteria can join AIH as a Category 2 student member.

Long-term member since 1986.

Our Principal John Mason, was awarded a fellowship by the Australian Institute of Horticulture in 2010

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason has been a member of the International Scociety of Horticultural Science since 2003

UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112


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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Dr. Lynette Morgan

Broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Leading horticultural expert in Australia.
Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (c

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

Over 30 years working in horticulture, as a gardener, propagator, landscape designer
, teacher and consultant. Adriana has spent much of her life living on large properties, developing and maintaining her own gardens, and living a semi self sufficient li





Tutors

Meet some of the tutors that guide the students through this course.

Jacinda Cole

Jacinda has expertise in psychology and horticulture. She holds a BSc (hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psychology (Clinical) and also trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the London Centre for Psychotherapy. In horticulture she has a Certificate in Garden Design and ran her own landscaping and garden design business for a number of years. Jacinda also has many years experience in course development and educational writing.

Yvonne Sharpe

Over 30 years of experience in horticulture, education and management, Yvonne has travelled widely within and beyond Europe, and has worked in many areas of horticulture from garden centres to horticultural therapy. She has served on industry committees and been actively involved with amateur garden clubs for decades.

Megan Cox

Megan has completed a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Conservation) with Honours from Writtle University College, as well as a Master of Science Degree in Countryside Management from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Her experience includes working as a Botanist, Ecologist, Head Gardener, Market Gardener and a Farming and Conservation Officer.

She has worked in various roles in Horticulture, Agriculture and Ecology since 2005. Megan has worked for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Centre for Environment and Rural Affairs among other organisations in the UK, as well as in Australia and Cambodia.

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