A. Gómez-Ramírez, C. López-Santos, M. Cantos, J. L. García, R. Molina, J. Cotrino, J. P. Espinós and A. R. González-Elipe
Scientific Reports, 7 (2017) 5924
Plasma treatment is recognized as a suitable technology to improve germination efficiency of numerous seeds. In this work Quinoa seeds have been subjected to air plasma treatments both at atmospheric and low pressure and improvements found in germination rate and percentage of success. Seed water uptake by exposure to water vapor, although slightly greater for plasma treated seeds, did not justify the observed germination improvement. To identify other possible factors contributing to germination, the chemical changes experienced by outer parts of the seed upon plasma exposure have been investigated by X-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS) and scanning electron microscopy (SEMEDX). XPS revealed that the outer layers of the Quinoa plasma treated seeds were highly oxidized and appeared enriched in potassium ions and adsorbed nitrate species. Simultaneously, SEM-EDX showed that the enrichment in potassium and other mineral elements extended to the seed pericarp and closer zones. The disappearance from the surface of both potassium ions and nitrate species upon exposure of the plasma treated seeds to water vapor is proposed as a factor favoring germination. The use of XPS to study chemical changes at seed surfaces induced by plasma treatments is deemed very important to unravel the mechanisms contributing to germination improvement.