Question What is the effect of vertical seed distribution (i.e. seeds on soil surface or buried) and the relative importance of vertical and horizontal seed distribution (i.e. seeds near established vegetation or near bare soil) for seedling emergence?Location: Patagonian arid steppe.Methods: To evaluate the effect of vertical seed distribution on seedling emergence, four sowing treatments were used in field and greenhouse experiments. Vertical vs. horizontal seed distribution and the occurrence of seedlings were analysed in the field. Effects of trampling and mechanical drilling on seedling emergence were investigated experimentally in the field.Results: In field and glasshouse experiments buried seeds showed a higher emergence and larger seedling size than seeds lying on the soil surface. The observational field study indicated that natural emergence was not associated with particular microsites or plant cover (horizontal distribution), but that most seedlings emerged from buried positions (vertical distribution). Buried seeds represented less than 10% of the sampled seed cohort but account for almost 60% of the seedlings. The trampling/drilling experiment showed that sheep trampling and mechanical drilling increased seedling emergence compared to non-treated controls.Conclusions: The population dynamics of Bromus pictus is strongly constrained by the vertical position of seeds, which largely affects emergence, and seed horizontal distribution, which largely affects seedling survival. Our results showed that sheep trampling after seed dispersal may be a low-input technique for increasing grass recruitment.Nomenclature: Cabrera (1971).