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Sprouting good ideas!

Biolinks PhD Project reveals cutting edge research into native seed germination.

In collaboration with Northern Tablelands Local Land Services and North West Local Land Services, PhD research student Lorena Ruiz Talonia has set out to solve the puzzle of how to prompt local native plant species to sprout.

"Knowledge about how to replicate the right conditions for germination has been limited.  Native species have evolved many unusual ways to trigger seed germination.   Recreating those conditions in the lab has been quite a challenge," said Lorena.   

Lorena's research at the University of New England has been supported through Local Land Services' Brigalow Nandewar Biolinks project. 

"The Biolinks project has a bold vision to establish and enhance native vegetation corridors linking the tablelands, slopes, and plains, by supporting landholders to revegetate, restore and manage native vegetation on their farms," explained Marty Dillon, Northern Tablelands Local Land Services coordinator for the Trees on Farms project.

"Finding out how to germinate the appropriate native species will be critical to the success of Biolinks revegetation projects," said Marty.

Working with the Northern Tablelands Local Land Services Seed Bank, Lorena has been researching the germination techniques of more than 70 native species of trees, shrubs, forbs and grasses.

"Some seeds require pre-treatment techniques before planting.  With shrubs like Wilga and Emu Apple we need to find ways to break the dormancy of the seed.  Part of my research is to find the most practical and economical techniques to prepare big quantities of seed for large scale revegetation projects," said Lorena.

Seeds have been soaked, smoked and boiled in experiments to trigger germination. Lorena has studied the impact of planting at different depths, in various soil moisture conditions, and the effects of storing seed at different temperatures before sowing.

Other techniques include chemical treatment with acids and enzymes, and mechanical removal of different parts of the seed that may restrain germination.

Lorena has also been investigating how digestion by birds can affect seed viability.

Seed has been fed to chickens to see if they can stimulate germination and Lorena is currently on the lookout for a captive emu to assist in germination trials for larger seeds.

"Some of the seeds we're working with are quite large, such as Eremophilas, and Emu apple (Owenia acidula), and they're obviously too big for a chicken to swallow, so I'm hoping to find an emu that can assist with digestion stimulated germination trials," said Lorena.

The Biolinks project aims to plant large areas of native vegetation, using commercial seeding technology to make revegetation projects economically viable for landholders.

Lorena's research will help to reveal which native species are suitable for direct seeding, and what planting techniques might need to be implemented to ensure these sites establish and thrive.

 "A key part of the Biolinks project is to re-establish species from the original ecosystems in our region, using seed with local provenance to make sure that plants are really well adapted to site conditions," said Marty Dillon.

"Lorena's work is unravelling the mysteries of germinating native plants, and her findings are a vital part of our goal to develop cost effective options for revegetating areas using direct seeding techniques."

Lorena Ruiz Talona is keen to collaborate with native plant enthusiasts in the region who can share their knowledge about germination techniques. 

Anyone with information about how to make native seed sprout, or about an emu that can take part in seed digestion research, is invited to contact Lorena Ruiz Talonia at the University of New England: phone: 02 6773 2403 or email: lruiztal@myune.edu.au

Media contact: Annabelle Monie on 02 6728 8032 or annabelle.monie@lls.nsw.gov.au