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Release: Aug. 22, 2000

UI biologist finds new methods for stimulating seed growth

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa biologist David R. Soll and his colleagues have developed methods for dramatically increasing the rate at which corn, soybean, sunflower and other agriculture seeds take up water and nutrients, and for loading into seeds molecules that can combat insects and fungi.

Soll says that the new technology for stimulating water uptake, a process called "imbibition," is both faster and more efficient than conventional methods, and the new technology of molecular loading may be particularly effective for protecting germinating seeds that shed their coat, like soybeans.

"The new method of promoting water uptake provides several agricultural advantages," Soll says. "First, the rapid uptake of water may provide seeds with an early advantage in germination and early development. A rapid increase in germ water content and osmotic pressure mobilizes the early molecular processes involved in germination. Because many types of plant seeds, including cereal grains, lawn grass seed and vegetable seeds, may be recalcitrant to germination, this treatment represents a potential method for accelerating the breaking of dormancy through water uptake."

The method of loading seeds with molecules prior to germination also provides several benefits. Soll said that loading seeds with growth stimulants, pesticides, fungicides, or nutrients before planting may reduce the amounts of those molecules that currently must be added to a field.

Significantly, imbibition and molecular loading do not involve genetic modification of seeds.

Soll and his colleagues also note that stimulating rapid water uptake may have value for seed processing. In alcohol distillation and brewing, for example, a rate-limiting factor is the uniform germination of grains and the rate of water uptake. The new technology developed by Soll and colleagues represents a potential method for decreasing hydration time and increasing the efficiency of separation for such processes as ethanol fermentation.

Caviforce Technologies, Inc., located at the UI Technology Innovation Center in Oakdale, Iowa, financed development of the new technology, which is currently being reviewed for marketable applications. In addition, the University of Iowa Research Foundation has filed a patent application on the new technology. Additional information may be obtained by contacting Soll at or at (319) 335-1117 or Zev Sunleaf, vice president of Caviforce Technologies, Inc. at or at (319) 335-4702.