FSG improves propogation of dune-protecting sea oats for a changing climate

PI: Hector Perez, University of Florida

Recap: Researchers studied the influence of latitude and temperature tolerance on sea oat germination to understand management implications in a changing climate and developed techniques growers can use to optimize sea oat production.

Relevance: Sea oats stabilize the coastal dunes that protect natural and built environments. Dune restoration depends on the production and planting of sea oats, usually propagated by seeds. Plant nurseries have lacked basic information about conditions that will improve germination and seedling success. Seed harvesting is a major investment for sea oat producers, who currently do not have reliable ways to assess seed production, vigor and potential yield.

Response: The research addressed research gaps in sea oat germination and production through a collaboration with state Departments of Environmental Protection, USDA and sea oats producers. The team devised a method to assess seed production via X-ray; created a staining procedure to determine seed viability; examined the effect of temperature on germination; and analyzed seed quality across sea oats’ range.

Results: The team’s X-ray method provided a quick, inexpensive way to measure seed production They developed techniques to differentiate seed vigor of populations using imaging and respirometry and identified population clusters of seed vigor. They also determined appropriate concentrations of biocide to manage fungal contamination during germination and identified the optimal temperature for rapid and complete germination. These outcomes are being shared with producers.

Partners: US Department of Agriculture (USDA); Florida Department of Environmental Protection; Aquatic Plants of Florida; Coastal Transplants, LLC; United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Daphne Field Office; Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA, NRCS); Cape May Plant Materials Center (USDA)