Poor seedling establishment is a major deterrent in adopting direct seeding of rice. Seed priming to obtain better crop stand could be an attractive approach. The objective of this study was to determine the effectiveness of seed priming strategies on the improved agronomic characters of direct-sown rice. Seed priming strategies were: hydropriming for 48 h, osmohardening with KCl or CaCl2 for 24 h, ascorbate priming for 48 h and seed hardening for 24 h, pre-germination (traditional soaking for nursery raising) and untreated control. Seed priming improved germination and emergence, allometry, kernel yield, and its quality, whilst pre-germination displayed poor and erratic emergence of seedling followed by poor plant performance. Faster and uniform emergence was due to improved α-amylase activity, which increased the level of soluble sugars in the primed kernels. Osmohardening with KCl gave greater kernel and straw yield and harvest index, followed by that of CaCl 2, hardening and ascorbate priming. Improved yield was attributed principally to number of fertile tillers and 1000 kernel weight. A positive correlation between mean emergence time and days to heading, while a negative one between kernel yield and harvest index suggested long-term effects of seed priming on plant growth and development. The results suggest that physiological changes produced by osmohardening enhanced the starch hydrolysis and made more sugars available for embryo growth, vigorous seedling production and, later on, improved allometric, kernel yield and quality attributes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas