Biospeckle activity in coffee seeds is associated non-destructively with seedling quality
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Seeds age during storage, resulting in a decline in germination and seedling quality. Seed quality tests are important to monitor this decline. However, such tests are usually destructive and require large seed numbers and long time. For coffee seeds the standard germination test and assessment of seedling quality takes 30 days. Biospeckle has been used previously as a non-destructive optical tool to monitor biological activity in a range of tissues. Biospeckle was applied 3-6 days after imbibition (DAI) to investigate an association with coffee seedling quality after 30 days. Two distinct areas of biospeckle activity were demonstrated, concurring with the locations of the embryonic axis and the cotyledons in the apical and central seed parts, respectively. Moisture content analysis revealed that embryos of imbibed seeds contained more water than endosperm. Different areas within the endosperm did not differ in moisture content, while the moisture content of the axis was higher than that of the cotyledons, and this did not change from 4 DAI. Therefore, it was concluded that high biospeckle activity was not the result of increased water content in any seed part, but more likely of growth and metabolism in the axis and cotyledons, which had been described previously. A threshold biospeckle ratio apical : central of 1.02 after 6 days distinguished between seeds that produced dead and viable seedlings after 30 days and provided similar results as a tetrazolium test, a widely acknowledged but destructive test for seed quality. Thus, biospeckle data provided a non-destructive early parameter for seedling quality, based on embryo growth during germination.