Pepper Germination: 5 Methods To Break Seed Dormancy

Ever heard of the term seed dormancy? Generally, growing peppers is relatively easy except when you hit a dead-end right off the bat. If you have been growing hot peppers for a while now, you have probably experienced difficulty in germinating your pepper seeds multiple times already. Either it takes longer than usual for them to start sprouting, or they don’t sprout at all. However, before you start blaming your seller or seed store, let us first understand seed dormancy’s effect on seeds’ germination rate.

What is Seed Dormancy?

All seeds undergo a period of hibernation known as dormancy. This typically happens when the external environmental conditions are not yet suitable for seed germination. Think of it as their defense and survival mechanism to get through extreme conditions such as winter months. There are several types of dormancy categorized under two main types; exogenous and endogenous dormancy. 

An exogenous dormancy occurs when various outside factors such as chemical growth hormones and seed coat thickness prevent the seed from germinating. Meanwhile, when the preventive factors come from within the seed itself, including its physiology and morphology, it is considered an endogenous dormancy.

The length of seed dormancy will depend on the type of seed and the environmental factors surrounding it. Some seeds, especially those with very thick seed coats, can survive for up to several years, while others can only lay dormant for a few weeks to a few months.

How To Break Seed Dormancy?

Most people believe that giving your seeds the right medium, enough water, and the sunlight is already enough to start them growing. All of this right; however, seeds may need a little additional push to start sprouting in some cases. Now that you understand what seed dormancy is and how it prevents your pepper seeds from germinating, let me show you methods for breaking them. 

TISSUE PAPER METHOD

The tissue paper method is typically used to sort out viable seeds from unviable ones. It involves placing your pepper seeds on a water-soaked tissue paper laid on a plastic container. They are then left there for a few days up until they have all sprouted. The moist environment helps in breaking the dormancy period allowing a faster germination period.

For the specific steps, just go to How To Germinate Pepper Seeds Using Tissue Paper Method.

REFRIGERATION METHOD

With all the heat waiting to burst out from our peppers, their seeds ironically sometimes need a good dose of cold temperature to germinate. Stratification is the simple process of mimicking a short winter period to break a seed’s dormant state. Since our hot peppers were originally from temperate regions where winter and spring seasons occur, doing the refrigeration method will help break down germination inhibiting factors. All you need to do is placed your seeds in between a moist paper towel or tissue paper. Then carefully placed it on any container such as jars, cups, or trays and left it inside your refrigerator for three days up to a week.

TEA SOAKING METHOD

Another popular germination method among pepper growers is doing the tea soaking method. Even Smokin’ Ed Currie, the father of the Carolina Reaper pepper, swears by it. There are several types of tea that you can use to bath your pepper seeds. However, the most popular among which is black tea, green tea, and chamomile tea. Sounds expensive? Not really, since what you will need are used tea bags already. 

Green Tea for Seed Dormancy
Break seed dormancy with green tea. Photo by Matcha & CO on Unsplash

The first brewing produces a robust tea solution for our seeds. Hence, it is preferred to use the second brewing solution of your tea bags or leaves. Allow your tea solution to cool down to room temperature before plopping in your seeds. Leave them to soak for 24 to 48 hours before sowing them. 

Tea extract for seed dormancy
Tea extract softens seed coat and induces germination. Photo by William Moreland on Unsplash

GIBBERELLIC ACID (GA3) SOLUTION METHOD

One of the five major growth hormones in plants, Gibberellic Acid or GA, is responsible for stimulating plant growth and development process. Its main contribution is inducing cell division and elongation, which primarily affects the stem, roots, and plant leaves. And they are also used to counter seed dormancy, as we’ve done during one of my laboratory classes in college. 

Dilute Gibberellic acid powder and soak pepper seeds to break dormancy.

Dilute 100 to 1000ppm of GA3 solution, which you can buy in your local agriculture stores, in a litre of water. You can either soak or simply spray the solution on the seeds. You can also add in the mixture when watering your seeds that are sown on the ground. It will not only break seed dormancy but also hasten and stimulate the seed germination process.

POTASSIUM NITRATE SOAKING METHOD

More commonly known as saltpeter, potassium nitrate (KNO3) is typically used for fertilizers and flower induction of mango crops. However, it also can soften the harsh seed coat and break seed dormancy. This white crystal powder can be easily bought in various stores, but you can typically find them in fertilizer stores. 

Dissolve half a teaspoon of potassium nitrate into 500mL of lukewarm water. Once all the crystals have vanished, you can now drop in your pepper seeds into the solution. Leave them to soak for four to eight hours before sowing them in the soil.

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