Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Plants, Soils, and Climate

Department name when degree awarded

Plant Science


Alvin R. Hamson


Certain varieties of snap bean, Phaseolus vulgaris L. , seeds are very susceptible to cracks that develop naturally across the cotyledons during pre-harvest, storage, or germination. This phenomenon is commonly known as cotyledonal cracking and may cause serious yield reductions on plants developing from affected seeds.

Cotyledonal cracking susceptibility of six white and six colored seeded varieties of snap beans were compared. Considerable differences were found in cracking susceptibility, but there was little or no relationship between seed coat color and cracking susceptibility.

An experiment was conducted to determine if a metabolic stress of the plant during the time of pod set could be involved in cotyledonal cracking. Blossoms were tagged on individual plants beginning with the day of first blossom, and tagging was continued for 21 days as blossoms emerged . Individual pods were harvested at maturity and maintained under controlled conditions throughout a simulated weathering treatment to follow. Seeds of each pod were classified according to the amount of cotyledonal cracking sustained. It was concluded that if a stress were involved, it apparently affected the seed several days after pod initiation and that an increase in cotyledonal cracking was negatively correlated to an increase in the number of pods set during one day.

Simulated weathering tests were made of seeds remaining in the pod and seeds from the same varieties that were shelled. The results indicated that the pod provides about equal cotyledonal cracking protection for all varieties tested. Apparently the pod is not an important cause of cracking resistance in certain varieties of snap beans.

Seed coat permeability was measured and compared for the 12 varieties . A technique was employed by which the bean seed coat served as a semipermeable membrane between a distilled water and a sucrose solution. Sucrose dilution was measured refractometrically and the rate of water penetration calculated. There was little relationship between seed coat permeability and cracking susceptibility among the varieties.

The rate of imbibition and drying for seeds of six varieties having varying degrees of cracking susceptibility was tested. Imbibition and drying conditions were closely controlled and weight changes were recorded at regular intervals during imbibition and drying. Results indicated that some of the varieties expressing the most rapid moisture changes were also the most resistant to cracking. It was concluded that the rate of change of seed moisture was not the primary factor controlling cotyledonal cracking susceptibility.

Rate of imbibition was tested for two susceptible and two resistant varieties. When the pre-imbibition seed moisture was above 10 percent, a ll varieties imbibed water freely. When pre-imbibition moisture was below 10 percent, several seeds of resistant varieties became slowly permeable while nearly all seeds of the susceptible varieties imbibed freely. This suggested the possibility that a hard seed tendency of the resistant varieties may be one source of protection against cotyledonal cracking. Preliminary data suggested that the seed coats of susceptible varieties remain permeable even at moisture levels below 10 percent, while many seed coats of the resistant varieties become rather impermeable at low moisture levels.

Microscopic examination of cotyledonal cracks from four different varieties indicated that the splitting occurred across cotyledonal cell walls more rapidly than between cell walls. This suggested that a weakness of the intercellular middle lamella is not responsible for cotyledonal cracking susceptibility. Further microscopic examination and comparison of the cotyledonal cell structure of two susceptible and two resistant varieties failed to show any structural differences between varieties that could account for differences in cotyledonal cracking susceptibility.