Timing of seed germination is one of the key steps in plant life cycles. It determines the beginning of plant growth in natural or agricultural ecosystems. In the wild, many seeds exhibit dormancy and will only germinate after exposure to certain environmental conditions. In contrast, crop seeds germinate as soon as they are imbibed usually at planting time. These domestication-triggered changes represent adaptations to cultivation and human harvesting. Germination is one of the common sets of traits recorded in different crops and termed the "domestication syndrome." Moreover, legume seed imbibition has a crucial role in cooking properties. Different seed dormancy classes exist among plant species. Physical dormancy (often called hardseededness), as found in legumes, involves the development of a water-impermeable seed coat, caused by the presence of phenolics- and suberin-impregnated layers of palisade cells. The dormancy release mechanism primarily involves seed responses to temperature changes in the habitat, resulting in testa permeability to water. The underlying genetic controls in legumes have not been identified yet. However, positive correlation was shown between phenolics content (e.g., pigmentation), the requirement for oxidation and the activity of catechol oxidase in relation to pea seed dormancy, while epicatechin levels showed a significant positive correlation with soybean hardseededness. myeloblastosis family of transcription factors, WD40 proteins and enzymes of the anthocyanin biosynthesis pathway were involved in seed testa color in soybean, pea and Medicago, but were not tested directly in relation to seed dormancy. These phenolic compounds play important roles in defense against pathogens, as well as affecting the nutritional quality of products, and because of their health benefits, they are of industrial and medicinal interest. In this review, we discuss the role of the testa in mediating legume seed germination, with a focus on structural and chemical aspects.
Keywords: domestication; dormancy; hardseededness; legumes; proanthocyanidins; seed coat; testa; water permeability.