Ultrasonic Priming of Seeds: How Sonication Improves Germination

  • Ultrasonic priming of seeds and grains result in a more complete and faster germination and higher crop yields.
  • Ultrasonication increases the uptake of water and fertilizers into the seed grains.
  • The ultrasonic priming of seeds is a simple low-cost method to enhance germination rate and speed of seedlings.

Ultrasonically Improved Seed Germination

Priming is a pre-treatment method used to shorten the germination time of seedlings. Various seed priming processes such as osmotic priming, hydropriming and ultrasonic priming have been developed to induce the early germination processes to take place. Ultrasonic priming is a very advantageous method of seed preparation since the sonication treatment is fast, energy-saving and water-saving.
Primed seeds that have completed the first germination processes, show a higher germination percentage and an faster emergence time (the time it takes for seeds to rise above the surface of the soil), a higher emergence rate (the number of seeds that make it to the surface), and better growth, suggesting that the head-start helps them get a good root system down early and grow faster. This method can be useful to farmers because it saves them the money and time spent for fertilizers, re-seeding, and weak plants.
The process can also allow for more uniform, even germination of the treated seeds. It can also increase germination over a wider temperature range and reduce disease incidence in seeds.

The UIP1000hdT is Hielscher's powerful 1kW ultrasonic processor for batch and continuous sonication (Click to enlarge!)

Ultrasonicator UIP1000hdT


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The ultrasonic priming improves seed germination percentage, seed vigor index (SVI), root and shoot lengths of seedlings. The sonication and priming process enforces the uptake of water and/or other beneficial substances into a seed grain. Furthermore, the ultrasonic waves activate enzymatic and other biologic reactions in the plant cell resulting in a faster and more uniform germination. Even weak seeds/grains can be activated so that the overall yield of the sowing is improved.

Ultrasonic seed priming

Longer sonication results in the better germination of the Calanthe hybrids. (Shin et al. 2011)

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How Does Ultrasonic Seed Priming Work?

Ultrasonic priming of seeds and grains results in a more complete and faster germination. These results are achieved by the following ultrasonic effects:

  • Ultrasonics increases the porosity of the seed by acoustic cavitation improving water uptake and oxygen availability (ultrasonic hydropriming / steeping).
  • Ultrasonics increases the uptake of nutrients and fertilizer into the seeds.
  • Ultrasonic priming enhances mass transfer: the extra-absorbed water reacts freely and readily with the cell embryo. Thereby, gibberellic acid is released and causes an increase in the rate of metabolic processes in aleurone cells.
  • Sonication helps the mobilisation of endosperm nutrients by cell membrane disruption. (Miano et al. 2015)
  • Ultrasonics activates enzymatic and other biologic reactions.

Sonication promotes grain/seed germination and increases the crop yield. Besides crops and fruit seedings, the ultrasonic seed priming has been successfully tested for flower seeds (orchids, lotus, calanthe), too. Ultrasonication enhances the permeability of the cell walls so that the seed shows a significantly higher uptake of water and nutrients (e.g. fertilizer).
It has been shown that the soaking time chickpeas, sorghum and navy beans was significantly reduced by the use of sonication.

Ultrasonic Seed Priming Systems

Hielscher Ultrasonics supplies industrial ultrasonic systems for seed/grain priming. The size of the ultrasonic system is adapted to the throughput of seeds or grains. All systems can be run 24/7. Due to their robustness, all ultrasonic units can be installed in rough environments.


  • Low Costs
  • Water-Saving
  • Fast Processing
  • Low Energy Consumption
  • Easy & Safe Operation

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  • Miano, A.C.; Forti, V.A:; Gomes-Junior, F.G.; Cicero, S.M.; Augusto, P.E.D. (2015): Effect of ultrasound technology on barley seed germination and vigour. Seed Sci. & Technol 43; 2015. 1-6.
  • Mirshekari, Bahram (2015): Physical seed treatment techniques may influence stand establishment and yield of wheat in delayed cropping. Idesia (Arica) 33(3), 2015. 49-54.
  • Ran, H.Y.; Yang, L.Y.; Cao, Y.L. (2015): Ultrasound on Seedling Growth of Wheat under Drought Stress Effects. Agricultural Sciences, 6, 2015. 670-675.
  • Ratnikova, Tatsiana A.; Podila, Ramakrishna; Rao, Apparao M.; Taylor, Alan G. (2015): Tomato Seed Coat Permeability to Selected Carbon Nanomaterials and Enhancement of Germination and Seedling Growth. The Scientific World Journal, vol. 2015.
  • Shin, Yun-Kyong; Baque, Md. Abdullahil; Elghamedi, Salem; Lee, Eun-Jung and Paek, Kee-Yoeup (2011): Effects of Activated Charcoal, Plant Growth Regulators and Ultrasonic Pre-treatments on ‘in vitro’ Germination and Protocorm Formation of ‘Calanthe’ Hybrids. Australian Journal of Crop Science, Vol. 5, No. 5, May 2011. 582-588.

Facts Worth Knowing

Priming is the pre-treatment of seeds, which triggers the so-called pre-germinative metabolism of the grain.
Various methods of priming (e.g. hydro-priming, osmotic priming, solid matrix priming) are known, which can be applied to improve seed germination rate, percentage germination, and uniformity of seedling emergence by controlling the water available in the seed. The pretreatment initiates the early stages of germination, but does not permit radicle protrusion, and then the seeds are dried until needed.
Ultrasonic priming has been shown to be very successful resulting in higher yields, faster emergence and more uniform germination.
Especially under demanding conditions such as in semi-aride and aride climates, the use of primed seedlings has significant advantages. The priming ensures that seeds germinate and grow even in inhospitable climate.

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