Plants respond not only to the environment in which they find themselves, but also to that of their parents. The combination of within- and trans-generational phenotypic plasticity regulates plant development. The light environment also regulates many aspects of plant development, including seed germination.
In a recent study published in AoB PLANTS, Vayda et al. investigate how seeds integrate environmental cues experienced at different times. In the study the authors quantified germination responses to changes in light quantity (irradiance) and quality (R:FR) experienced during seed maturation and seed imbibition in Arabidopsis thaliana genotypes that differ in their innate dormancy levels. The results show that seeds integrate information from light environments experienced by mother plants and by the seeds themselves. Seeds responded to distinct components of the light environment: light wavelength, which predicts the presence of neighbours (in particular the ratio of red to far red light), and light quantity, which indicates resource abundance. Responses to the maternal environment were stronger than responses to the seed environment, suggesting that the integration of environmental information across generations may have different predictive value depending on the generation that experienced the cue.