Influence of selected environmental factors on seed germination and seedling survival of the arid zone invasive species tobacco bush (Nicotiana glauca R. Graham).
Tobacco bush (Nicotiana glauca R. Graham) is an aggressive invading species, which is active after disturbances such as high rainfall events and flooding. Past studies have focussed on population dynamics and allelopathic effects associated with the species, but little is known about its seed ecology. To address this dearth of information, this study aimed to investigate: (i) the effect of various stress factors (temperature, light, osmotic potential, salt stress, heat-shock, a combination of heat-shock and smoke, pH buffer, and burial depth of seed) on seed germination and seedling emergence, and (ii) factors affecting the fate of seedlings. The results show that N. glauca was able to germinate over a broad range of temperatures with highest seed germination occurring at 30/20°C with 12 h of light and 12 h of dark conditions. Seed germination was greatest (89%) when seeds were placed on the soil surface and emergence decreased considerably as planting depth increased from 0.5 to 1.5 cm. Water stress greatly reduced seed germination (58% germination at osmotic potentials below -0.2 MPa) and germination was completely inhibited at water potentials of -0.4 to -0.6 MPa. Although increasing salinity reduced the seed germination of this invasive species, N. glauca seed was able to germinate in both alkaline (81% at pH 10) and acidic (80% at pH 4) conditions. The trial on the effect of seed age and field seed burial on seed germination showed a slight decline in seed germination after 120 days of burial compared with non-buried seeds. Further, the combined effect of heat-shock and smoke effectively inhibited the germination of N. glauca seeds; however, our study shows that seedlings of N. glauca can withstand heat-shock of up to 130°C. Studies such as this will assist in the development of control strategies to prevent the spread of this invasive species into arid landscapes.