Germination predictions to inform seeding potential: comparing cheatgrass and potential revegetation species

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Using a wet thermal time model for germination prediction, this study estimated progress toward germination (PTG) of 31 seedlots (10 species) as a function of hourly seedbed temperature (> 0 °C) when soils were above a water potential of −1.5 MPa. Seasonally-summed progress toward germination with a value > 1 indicates that germination will occur for that season. We used near surface (1–3 cm) soil water potential and temperature measurements collected at 24 sites in the Great Basin to determine effects of site, season, and year on PTG. On tree encroached sites, we also determined effects of tree infilling phase at time of tree removal, removal method, and microsite on estimated PTG. Soils were wet and warm enough in early spring, late spring, and fall for PTG > 1 indicating potential germination for most seedlots and species on most sites and years. Prescribed burning increased PTG as much as three times more than either tree cutting or mechanical shredding. Germination prediction could help to screen for plant materials adapted to specific sites or assess effects of seed additives or treatments that time germination to maximize seedling survival.