Scientists from Michigan State University have extended a 144-year experiment started by botanist William J. Beal in 1879. Scientists have found that seeds buried in sand are still able to germinate.
According to IFLScience, Beal was interested in studying the longevity of weeds. He placed 50 seeds in 20 glass bottles with 23 different types of weeds and then buried them with the neck down so that no water would collect inside. He then dug up the seeds every five years and germinated them to see if they were still viable.
In 2021, a team of scientists dug up 14 seed bottles. They found that most plant species had lost their seed viability during the first 60 years of the experiment, but a high percentage of plants in the genus Verbascum were still able to grow.
One hybrid that probably should not have been part of the experiment was among the sprouted plants. The team suspected that the hybrid had been included in the experiment by mistake, and after DNA sequencing, they found that their hunch was correct.
"The hybrid was an interesting discovery," said Frank Telewski, professor emeritus, plant biologist and leader of the Beal group. "It shows that errors can occur even in well-controlled experimental conditions."
The study, published in the American Journal of Botany, is important for the conservation of rare species and ecosystem restoration. The results of the study help to determine which plant species may be problematic weeds for such projects and which other species may not, depending on how long the field was cultivated before restoration.
The experiment is due to end in 2100, but it may need to be extended by spacing the germination interval if the seeds continue to show that they are viable.
Earlier, scientists explained why people can't drink seawater and what would happen if they did.
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