Nitrogen oxides as environmental sensors for seeds
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Nitrates have long been known to promote seed germination in many species, and various proposals have been made regarding the role of nitrates in this process. One hypothesis suggests a possible ecological role for nitrate, providing the seeds with a report of soil nitrogen status and the proximity of already established plants. However, nitrogen oxides (NO, NO2), which are present in the soil, also may be information carriers that indicate not only soil nitrate content, but also microbial activity and, therefore, soil quality. Because of annual variation of soil trace gas fluxes, seeds could be provided with information on seasonal and climate changes in their surroundings. Thus, nitrogen oxides would be the outer information carriers providing the seeds with integral data about many important factors required for successful germination and seedling establishment.