Optimizing Seed Germination Rates

Ray777

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Hi all. I am starting a pretty sizable seed growing project, hoping to launch a small-ish scale business venture.

I have a large number of seeds to germinate. Therefore, I imagine it would be cost efficient to use any effective method or material solution to optimize seed germination rates, for trees and shrubs in general, or if there might be any for bonsai, both for trees and shrubs in general, or specific species. I mean not just practices, but also material solutions,
liquid or otherwise.

I have been searching the web, and gathered some information I could touch upon here. But first, I would really appreciate any kind of reference to any websites, blogs, or databases, etc, which are particularly informative. I would welcome both plain English and more scientific treatments.

And of course, most of all, I would appreciate any of your specific tips, methods, techniques, and (if you’ve got the time lol) any step by step procedures.

Oh also, I would appreciate anyone going into starting tiny seeds vs medium to large. And I should also add I will practice first with some of my less pricey and more plentiful seeds haha. Many thanks in advance!
 
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19Mateo83

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I would say most important thing I’ve found is proper species specific pre treatment and proper storage during stratification. No stratification = no germination for some species and improper storage during stratification = mold and loss of seeds.
 

Shibui

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Germinating seed is a very wide area.
First you need to establish a general system to germinate the seeds.
I usually sow in seed trays to germinate then prick out the seedlings into individual pots. This saves on materials and space as you only have to have space for the ones that germinate.

Recently there has been a move to direct seedling where 1 or 2 seeds are planted in each pot. This saves on labour of pricking out. It usually also gives a better root system if the trees are destined for landscape or forestry. Direct seeding is only effective when you can be certain of good germination rates. Empty pots cost money and time with no return. Direct seeding becomes more difficult with really tiny seeds.

For most species I use a general potting soil but some species require specialized soils. Usually whatever soil mix the plants will grow in will be good enough to germinate in however rarer and hard to grow species do benefit from special seed raising mix as it comes relatively inert - fewer pests and diseases in the soil helps with survival rates of small and, especially, slow growing seedlings. Need to understand that seed raising mixes generally have little nutrient so seedlings will require additional fertilizer soon after germination or quick transplant into proper potting soil.

One of the biggest areas of seed germination is pre treatment. So many species have specific needs before the seeds will germinate well - scarification for hard coated seeds, Cold treatment for alpine and cold region species, Acid etching for certain species that rely on birds to transport the seeds, smoke treatment for some species from bushfire prone ecosystems, some species appear to require a period in running water to leach out chemical inhibitors, etc, etc.
There are still lots of species that do not require any pre treatment so those are the easiest ones to start with.

Not sure what else to advise????
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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Seed quality is about the most important factor.
Good quality seed has high germination rates, low quality seed is dead on arrival sometimes and you can't do a thing about it.

I can advise you to not fiddle with hormones if you don't have the equipment to get exact quantities. A couple micrograms more or less can have major effects.

Also consider effort vs. reward. You can sandpaper pine seeds piece by piece, but it'll improve germination rates by about 2%. A batch of 200 will take you 30 minutes or more and yield you about 5 cents worth of extra seedlings. Easier and cheaper to just order 5 cents more seeds.
 

Ray777

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Many thanks to you both! 🙏:) I will process this, and respond later, as I am about to doze off lol...

I just wanted to add, are there perhaps any books someone might recommend, that they would consider necessary, or at least very helpful, on this subject?

Does anyone have advice for handling the very tiny seeds? Are there implements to plant them one per cell, if that is advisable? I'm thinking I'll place them just at the surface of the mix, and sprinkle with perlite. Is this about right? I don't know how to handle them. I'm thinking little slips of paper, tiny plastic spoons, little plastic tweezers. Any special implements made for this purpose?

Again, the information you've given me should lead to volumes more. Thank you!

And I would still love for others to chime in...:)
 
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penumbra

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I wish you much success in your endeavor. There are a lot of us out here doing this on relatively small scale. If you are coming to this cold, there are two books I recommend. One is the universally cherished book "The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation" by Dirr and HeuserJr. The other is "Seeds of Woody Plants in the United States" Forest Service of the US Department of Agriculture Handbook NO. 450.
 

JeffS73

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There's tons of info just here on bnut, individuals going to great lengths and sharing their hard earned experience.

My experience is that you have to try it and find out what the challenges are, they won't be what you expect. Look at Mark Comstocks and cmeg1s threads on bnut, I'd say they're the benchmark for propagation. Lots of others too.
Dirrs reference manual of woody plant propagation is the book you need. I would also say it has to be a passion, no one's making megabucks putting roots on little trees, contrary to how it might seem.
 

penumbra

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A few other tips that may be helpful. Consider that there are many plants that will produce quicker results and larger sturdier plants through cuttings rather than seeds. Of course there is advantages to both methods and anyone serious about plant propagation will utilize all methods, even grafting in many instances.
If you have an opportunity to visit a propagation facility or a few, this should be done. I would consider this a very high priority. I will be making a few more visits this year to growers large and small. If you do not have a horticultural background, you might want to visit your community colleges and considering their offerings. The great thing about classes is that you have an opportunity to feed off so many minds.
Play with what seeds and cuttings you will but consider, if this is to be something to net income, give full attention to growing the plants that have the highest demand and consider how far you want to develop these plants. I have a very small operation that is mostly for the amusement of an aging man, but I am not interesting in selling seedlings. I am more interested in selling pre bonsai, which has a very broad definition.
I genuinely wish you much success and enjoyment of your journey.
 
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