Ultrasonic Priming and Sprouting

  • An ultrasonic treatment of seeds is a useful pre-sowing technique to stimulate germination.
  • Sonication is an efficient technique for breaking seed dormancy and improving the germination characteristics.
  • Hielscher ultrasonic equipment can be precisely controlled for reliable outcome of seed germination and priming.

Ultrasonic Germination

A rapid germination and seedling emergence are critical factors for a successful establishment of plants and crops. Dormancy breaking and germination stimulation are important for proliferation and early production of plant seedlings. Ultrasonication of seeds in water oder an osmoticum improve the germination rate and speed and show a higher germination percentage than untreated seeds. Mild sonication stimulates the vegetal cells

Ultrasonically induced shell fragmentation, perforation and enlargement of the pore size of seeds lead to a higher water retention capacity in seeds and grains resulting in improved hydration. Ultrasonic endosperm modification, such as starch degradation by sonication, increases the rate of enzyme-catalyzed hydrolysis reactions within the seeds. An increased enzyme activity and hydrolysis accelerates germination and embryo growth as result of the ultrasonic treatment.

Benefits of Ultrasonic Germination

  • uniform and rapid germination
  • higher seed vigor index
  • longer roots and shoots
  • increased α-amylase activity
  • higher resistance
  • increased hydration
  • nutrient enrichment
  • reduced time between sowing and seedling emergence
Ultrasonically germinated lentils (40Ws/g w/ UP200St) in comparison with non-sonicated lentils.

Sonicated lentils (40Ws/g w/ UP200St) in comparison with non-sonicated lentils: The sonicated lentils show a higher gemination rate and longer shoots.

Ultrasonic treatment with 2kW system UIP2000hdT

UIP2000hdT (2kW) for large scale batch treatment

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SEM of ultrasonically sprouted seeds.

Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) pictures of Arabidopsis seeds.
a–c Seed subjected to sonication at 24°C for 30sec.
d, e dry seed, f, g seed placed in water for 4 days at 4°C,
h, i, germinated seeds. Source: Lopez-Ribera et al. 2017

Ultrasonic Priming

Priming of seeds in osmotica such as mannitol, polyethylene glycol (osmopriming), saline solutions (e.g., CaCl2, NaCl or CaSO4) (halopriming) and in water (hydropriming) can be easily improved by the application of ultrasound waves. Sonication improves the mass transfer between the seed and the surrounding solution resulting in an increased uptake of solution (i.e. water, nutrients etc.) into the seed is achieved. Ultrasonically assisted priming is an economical, simple and a safe technique for increasing the capacity of seeds to osmotic adjustment and enhancing seed germination, seedling establishment and crop production under stressed conditions.
Read more about ultrasonic priming here!

Ultrasonic Processors for Germination and Priming

To improve germination of seed by sonication, precisely controllable and adjustable ultrasonic systems are required. Since the ultrasound waves are used stimulate physiological activities of vegetal cells, the intensity of sonication must be adapted to the specific type of seed and cultivar. Hielscher ultrasonic systems can be set to mild amplitudes delivering the cavitation and/or oscillation required to prime seeds for optimal germination and vigour. Seed treatment can be applied in batch as well as in continuous flow mode. The broad spectrum of accessories allow for the easy integration of ultrasound into existing premises.
Hielscher’s ultrasonic systems increase the potential for high seedling performance after sowing.
The table below gives you an indication of the approximate processing capacity of our ultrasonicators:

Batch Volume Flow Rate Recommended Devices
1 to 500mL 10 to 200mL/min UP100H
10 to 2000mL 20 to 400mL/min UP200Ht, UP400St
0.1 to 20L 0.2 to 4L/min UIP2000hdT
10 to 100L 2 to 10L/min UIP4000hdT
n.a. 10 to 100L/min UIP16000
n.a. larger cluster of UIP16000

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  • Yaldagard M.; Reza Mortazavi S.A.; Tabatabaie F. (2008): Application of Ultrasonic Waves as a Priming Technique for Accelerating and Enhancing the Germination of Barley Seed: Optimization of Method by the Taguchi Approach. Journal of The Institute for Brewing Vol. 114, Issue1, 2008. 14-21.
  • Machikowa T.; Kulrattanarak T.; Wonprasaid S. (2013): Effects of Ultrasonic Treatment on Germination of Synthetic Sunflower Seeds. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology International Journal of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Vol:7, No:1, 2013.
  • Nazari M.; Eteghadipour M. (2017): Impacts of Ultrasonic Waves on Seeds: A Mini-Review. Agri Res & Tech Volume 6 Issue 3 – April 2017.

Facts Worth Knowing


Seed germination describes the development and growth of a plant from a seed. The germination process results in the formation of a seedling, which involves metabolic processes as well as the emergence of radicle and plumule. A fully developed seed contains an embryo and nutrients enclosed in a seed coat. Under proper conditions, the seed begins to germinate and the embryonic tissues continue to grow, developing towards a seedling. The most important factors for seed germination are water, oxygen, temperature and light.

Pre-Sowing Treatment

Seed invigoration is the technical term which describes beneficial treatments applied to seeds after harvest, but prior to sowing in order to improve the germination and seedling growth. Various methods have been used for seed pre-sowing treatment in order to increase the germination and uniformity of seedling growth. Pre-sowing applications include mechanical treatments (e.g., ultrasonication, pounding, rubbing, scarification), treatment with hot or boiling water, dry heat treatment, chemical treatment (e.g., gibberellic acid/gibberellin, sulphuric acid) or electrical treatment. Those treatments of the seeds are applied with the goal to improve seed vigor. Seed vigor is the quality assessment of potential seed germination, field emergence and seed storage ability under different conditions than standard germination. Seed vigor is measured via seed vigor testing.

Endosperm Modification

The endosperm is a tissue produced inside the seeds of most of the flowering plants following fertilization. It surrounds the embryo and provides nutrition in form of starch, though it can also contain oils and proteins. The endosperm can be enzymatically modified, which is an important step during malting of barley. During malting the enzymes beta glucanses and the endoproteases are mostly used to modify the starchy endosperm of barely.