Regeneration of planted forests of Cryptomeria japonica (sugi) and Chamaecyparis obtuse (hinoki) is the pressing importance to the forest administration in Japan. Low seed germination rate of these species, however, has hampered low-cost production of their seedlings for reforestation. The primary cause of the low germinability has been attributed to highly frequent formation of anatomically unsound seeds, which are indistinguishable from sound germinable seeds by visible observation and other common criteria such as size and weight. To establish a method for sound seed selection in these species, hyperspectral imaging technique was used to identify a wavelength range where reflectance spectra differ clearly between sound and unsound seeds. In sound seeds of both species, reflectance in a narrow waveband centered at 1,730 nm, corresponding to a lipid absorption band in the short-wavelength infrared (SWIR) range, was greatly depressed relative to that in adjacent wavebands on either side. Such depression was absent or less prominent in unsound seeds. Based on these observations, a reflectance index SQI, abbreviated for seed quality index, was formulated using reflectance at three narrow SWIR wavebands so that it represents the extent of the depression. SQI calculated from seed area-averaged reflectance spectra and spatial distribution patterns of pixelwise SQI within each seed area were both proven as reliable criteria for sound seed selection. Enrichment of sound seeds was accompanied by an increase in germination rate of the seed lot. Thus, the methods described are readily applicable toward low-cost seedling production in combination with single seed sowing technology.
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