Downy brome, an obligately selfing winter annual, has invaded a variety of habitats in western North America. Seeds are at least conditionally dormant at dispersal in early summer and lose dormancy through dry after-ripening. In the field, patterns of germination response at dispersal vary among populations and across years within populations. Degree of dormancy at summer temperatures in recently harvested seeds, as well as rate of dormancy loss during dry storage, can be related to the risk of premature summer germination in different habitats. Patterns of dormancy loss are predictable and can be modeled using hydrothermal time concepts. To assess the relative contribution of genotype and maturation environment, multiple parental lines from contrasting populations were grown for three generations under manipulated greenhouse conditions. Significant germination response differences among populations were observed, as well as major differences among full-sib families. Among-population variation accounted for over 90% of the variance in germination traits, whereas within-family variance accounted for 1% or less. Populations from predictable extreme environments (subalpine meadow and warm desert margin) showed significantly less variation among families than did populations from less predictable environments (cold desert, foothill, and plains). Environmental conditions that shortened the seed ripening period (water stress and high temperature) resulted in reduced seed dormancy level at maturation, but there were strong inbred line–environment interactions. For fully after-ripened seeds, inbred line and environmental effects were no longer evident, indicating that differences in genotype and maturation environment function mainly to regulate dormancy and dormancy loss rather than to mediate response patterns of nondormant seeds.
Nomenclature: Downy brome, Bromus tectorum L. BROTE.