Advances in Bioscience and Biotechnology, 2013, 4, 986-992 ABB Published Online November 2013 (
Environmental, morphological and physiological factors
analyzes for optimization of potato (Solanum tuberosum L.)
microtuber in vitro germination
Abraham Dieme, Mame Ourèye Sy*
Laboratoire Campus de Biotechnologies Végétales, Département de Biologie Végétale, Faculté des Sciences & Techniques, Uni-
versité Cheikh Anta Diop, B.P. 5005, Dakar-Fann, Sénégal
Email: *,
Received 18 August 2013; revised 18 September 2013; accepted 18 October 2013
Copyright © 2013 Abraham Dieme, Mame Ourèye Sy. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attri-
bution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly
The microtuber is considered one of the most effec-
tive means of spreading basic materials, as well as
transporting and preserving potato germplasm varie-
ties. To define the optimal conditions for the potato
microtuber in vitro germination of Aida, Atlas and
Odessa varieties, the effects of temperature, physio-
logical age and grade (size) were evaluated. The study
conducted at three different temperature levels has
demonstrated that the most favorable temperature
for microtuber germination at a higher and faster
germination rate was 25˚C, regardless of the variety.
In addition, microtubers of large caliber, greater than
4 mm, germinate more quickly, with a higher germi-
nation rate, than smaller size ones (less than 4 mm)
for all genotypes. For Atlas, Aida and Odessa varie-
ties, a germination rate equal to 86.66%, 70% and
70% respectively, was obtained for microtubers with
a caliber superior to 4 mm. Physiological age influ-
ences microtuber germination. The mean length of
sprouts, reached after a 7 week incubation period,
was more marked at “multiple sprout” and “branched
sprout” stages than at a “monosprout” stage. The
average length was 2.35 cm, 2.48 cm and 1.5 cm, re-
spectively. Thus, it is necessary to plant microtubers
at a “multiple sprout” stage to optimize their yield in
plants and minitubers.
Keywords: Solanum tuberosum; Microtubers; In Vitro
Germination; Temperature; Size; Physiological Age
Potato is a crop grown in developing countries particu-
larly in Senegal (West Africa). Demand for that crop as
well as comestible tubers, and plant for seeding purposes
is steadily increasing in West African countries. Given
its economic importance in the agri-food sector, potato
has focused a significant amount of research, especially
with varieties developed in the North that have proved
well adapted to Senegalese agro-climatic conditions. In
agricultural practice, the potato production cycle is mainly
vegetative, tuber products constituting both an organ of
asexual reproduction (seed tubers) and an edible part of
the plant. The agronomic performances of seed tubers are
highly dependent on dormancy but also on physiological
age referred to the physiological state of the tuber at a
given point in its growth. However, the use of seed tu-
bers often exposes plants to infections, especially viral.
The use of microtubers offers many advantages. With the
same morphology, it is difficult to determine the physio-
logical age of a classic tuber, especially at precocious
early stages. In comparison, the reproducibility and syn-
chronous nature of the initiation and in vitro tuberization
allow a precise definition of the tuber growth stage [1].
Produced in an aseptic environment, microtubers repre-
sent a possible alternative for the production of potato
seeds to overcome phytosanitary problems. They also
have the advantages of being easily handled and requir-
ing little space for storage. Microtubers can be planted
directly in the field for the production of a very large
amount of minitubers that constitute another alternative
to conventional in vitro propagation of microcuttings.
Indeed, over the past two decades, many research efforts
have been made to determine the best conditions for in
vitro microtubers production [2] and greenhouse minitu-
ber production to clarify the potential massive spread of
potatoes. Potato microtubers (Solanum tuberosum L.)
produced in vitro are also used in many areas of agricul-
*Corresponding author.
A. Dieme, M. O. Sy / Advances in Bioscience and Biotechnology 4 (2013) 986-992 987
ture as material for research [3], conservation of genetic
resources and international distribution of cultivated
genotypes [4], as well as certification systems [5]. In
practice, large microtubers are preferred because they
produce vigorous plants [6]. They are also less prone to
drying out in storage, and have a short dormancy period
and a high rate of survival in direct transfer into soil [7].
To define the optimal conditions for the in vitro ger-
mination of microtubers collected from Aïda, Atlas and
Odessa varieties, this study was undertaken to assess the
impact of temperature, size and physiological age.
2.1. Plant Material
The plant material represents the microtubers of three
potato varieties (Aida, Atlas and Odessa), aseptically
harvested from different tuberization media [8]. Micro-
tubers were classified in two grades: those with a caliber
under 4 mm and those with a caliber over or equal to 4
mm. They were kept thereafter in Petri dishes hermeti-
cally sealed with parafilm or in jars and stored in the
dark in a cold room at 4˚C ± 1˚C for at least 3 months.
2.2. Methods
2.2.1. Cultivation of Micr ot ubers
Germination tests of microtubers initiated after the pe-
riod of cold storage, were made at three different tem-
peratures (25˚C, 27˚C and 30˚C ± 1˚C) to identify the
optimal temperature which would induce the best ger-
mination rate. Four batches of five microtubers with dif-
ferent calibers (over and under 4 mm grade) were used.
For each environmental factor studied, three repetitions
were performed. The microtubers were aseptically
seeded in culture tubes filled with an 8% agarified MS (0)
medium at pH 5.9 [9] and then incubated in the dark at
different temperatures (Plate 1). The culture media were
prepared and conditioned as previously described [10]. A
Plate 1. Appearance of microtubers introduced on MS me-
dium (0) and incubated in the dark at 25˚C. 1.583 cm re-
presents a distance of 1 cm.
weekly count of the number of microtubers sprouted was
made over an 8 week period.
The impact of the microtuber size on in vitro germina-
tion was evaluated using six batches of 5 microtubers for
each grade (over and under 4 mm caliber) and each vari-
ety. Microtubers were inoculated aseptically into test
tubes filled with MS medium (0) and then incubated in
the dark at 25˚C ± 1˚C. A weekly count of the number of
microtubers sprouted is performed over an 8 week pe-
The influence of physiological age on in vitro germi-
nation is highlighted by assessing the length parameter of
the sprouts obtained. Thus, 5 microtubers, for each age
class were incubated in the dark at 25˚C. The sprout
length of each microtuber over 4 mm caliber, at different
stages “monosprout”, “multiple sprouts” and “branched
sprouts”, was measured weekly over a 7 week period.
The average length of sprouts is then calculated for each
2.2.2. St at i stical Analysis
Statistical analysis focused on the comparison of differ-
ent treatments using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA),
followed by a comparison of means (Student Newman-
Keuls’ test) at a 5% threshold when the interaction be-
tween factors (variety*temperature; variety*caliber; va-
riety*physiological age) is significant.
3.1. Effect of Temperature on Microtubers
The experiments showed that the highest germination
rates were obtained at 25˚C for all varieties. However for
the Atlas range, temperatures at 25˚C and 2˚C gave the
same 85% germination rate. For Aida and Odessa varie-
ties, optimal germination rates of 85% and 65% were ob-
tained at 25˚C, respectively. High temperature of 30˚C
drastically reduced the germination rate of all varieties
(Table 1, Figure 1).
Table 1. Effect of different temperatures on microtuber in vitro
germination of three potato varieties (Atlas, Aïda and Odessa)
after 8 weeks in darkness.
Germination rate of microtubers (%)
Temperature (˚C) Atlas Aïda Odessa
25 85 a 85 a 65 bc
27 85 a 70 bc 50 cd
30 70 bc 35 d 45 cd
Treatments followed by the same letter are not significantly different at
probability level of P < 0.05 by Student-Newman-Keuls test (SNK).
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
A. Dieme, M. O. Sy / Advances in Bioscience and Biotechnology 4 (2013) 986-992
Aïda 25˚C
Aïda 27˚C
Aïda 30˚C
Figure 1. Kinetics of microtuber in vitro germination incubated
at different temperatures for the 3 potato varieties (Atlas, Aïda
and Odessa).
Germination kinetics showed that the Atlas variety
seed quickly after incubation regardless of the tempera-
ture (Figure 1(a)). The Aida variety had a long latency
period of 4 weeks for microtubers incubated at 25˚C and
2 weeks for those at 27˚C (Figure 1(b)). However, once
this period is exceeded, the germination rate rapidly
reached 85% at 25˚C and 70% at 27˚C after 8 weeks of
incubation. For the Odessa variety, the latency period is
short and only lasts a week, regardless of the temperature
(Figure 1(c)).
3.2. Effects of Microtuber Size on in Vitro
For all varieties, microtubers greater than 4 mm in size
gave a higher germination rate than microtubers of cali-
ber under 4 mm. Thus, the Atlas, Aida and Odessa varie-
ties had a germination rate equal to 86.66%, 70% and
70% respectively for the range superior to 4 mm. As for
microtubers under 4 mm in size, germination rates were
73.33%, 56.66% and 40%, respectively. However, for
Atlas and Aida varieties, germination rates obtained for
microtubers over 4 mm, were not significantly different
from those of microtubers with a caliber under 4 mm.
The difference noted between the two sizes was signifi-
cant for Odessa variety. The Atlas variety microtubers
yieldied better (86.66% and 73.33%) regardless of the
size; followed by microtubers of Aïda and Odessa varie-
ties, respectively (Figure 2).
Germination kinetics revealed that the Atlas variety
microtubers germinated faster than microtubers of the
other varieties whatever the caliber. After 5 weeks of
incubation, the germination rate fluctuated around 50% -
58% for the two calibers against 30% - 50% and 30% -
48% for Aïda and Odessa varieties, respectively. The
microtubers of Aida variety, after weak germination rates
in the first four weeks, revealed germination rates that
increased rapidly from 50% to 70% for those which size
were superior to 4 mm. Microtubers of Odessa variety
had a lag time of one week (Figure 3). Then, those of
caliber superior to 4 mm started to germinate rapidly and
reached a 70% germination rate at 8 weeks. In contrast,
microtubers of size less than 4 mm germinated slowly
and reached a final germination rate of 40% after the
same incubation time (Figure 3).
3.3. Effect of Physiological Age on Microtuber in
Vitro Germination
The influence of microtubers physiological age on in
Aïd a
Figure 2 . Size effects on the germination rate of the microtubers
of the three potato varieties (Atlas, Aïda and Odessa).
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A. Dieme, M. O. Sy / Advances in Bioscience and Biotechnology 4 (2013) 986-992 989
Aïda c < 4 mm
Aïda c 4 mm
Figure 3. Kinetics of microtubers germination of different sizes
of the three varieties (Atlas, Aïda and Odessa) at 25˚C.
vitro germination was highlighted by assessing the length
parameter of the sprouts obtained. Thus, the “multiple
sprout” and “branched sprout” stages were most likely to
germinate because they had an average length greater
than that of the “monosprout” stage for all varieties.
However, sprouts of “branched sprout” stage were less
vigorous than those of “monosprout” stage, for all varie-
ties. A Student Newman-Keuls t-Test indicated a non-
significant difference in the sprout lengthening at the
“multiple sprout” and “branched sprout” stages, while a
significant variation was noted between these two stages
and the “monosprout” stage, regardless the variety (Ta-
ble 2).
The growth of potato sprouts, according to incubation
time, was studied over a 7 week period. Thus, there was
a rapid growth of sprouts at “multiple sprout” and
“branched sprout” stages while at “monosprout” stage,
growth was slow along the 7 weeks (Figure 4). During
the first 3 weeks after germination, the growth rate of
sprouts was weak and did not reach 1.5 cm for all varie-
ties. Then, it increased progressively. For the Odessa
variety, the average maximum length measured after 7
weeks of incubation for “multiple sprout” “branched
sprout” and “monosprout” stages was respectively 2.35
cm, 2.48 cm and 1.5 cm. For the two other varieties,
sprouts of the “branched sprout” stage were longer at
2.39 and 2.82 cm, respectively.
At harvest, the potato tuber is in a dormant phase in
which no germination can occur even under favorable
environmental conditions. The same status occurs for
microtubers obtained from tissue culture. This dormancy
is similar to that of dry seeds which is an innate seed
property that defines the environmental conditions under
which the seed is able to germinate. It is determined by
genetics with a substantial environmental influence. The
process is mediated, at least in part, by the plant hor-
mones abscissic acid and gibberellins. The dormancy
status is not only influenced by the seed maturation en-
vironment, but also changes continuously over time after
shedding, and it also determined by ambient environ-
mental conditions [11]. Seed dormancy is a block to the
completion of germination in an intact viable seed under
favorable conditions [12,13]. A useful definition of dor-
mancy has been proposed by [14]: a dormant seed does
not have the capacity to germinate in a specified period
of time under any combination of normal physical envi-
ronmental factors that are otherwise favorable for its
germination, i.e. after the seed becomes non-dormant.
Germination and growth of seedlings are controlled by
gibberellins and abscisic acid contents, mainly accompa-
nied by an increase in respiratory activity and water loss,
as well as a significant degradation of starch and simple
Table 2. Influence of physiological age on the microtuber in
vitro germination of the three varieties at 25˚C.
Mean length of sprouts (cm)
Physiological age Atlas Aïda Odessa
Monosprout 1.3 c 1.1 c 1.5 c
Multiple sprout 2.35 a 2.14 b 2.298 ab
Branched sprout 2.39 a 2.282 b 2.478 a
Treatments followed by the same letter are not significantly different at the
probability level of P < 0.05 by Student-Newman-Keuls test (SNK).
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
A. Dieme, M. O. Sy / Advances in Bioscience and Biotechnology 4 (2013) 986-992
Figure 4. Growth kinetics of the microtuber sprouts at 25˚C at
different physiological stages of the three varieties Atlas (a),
Aida (b) and Odessa (c).
sugars [15]. Temperature is the element that contributes
most to maintaining the quality of stored seeds and po-
tato microtubers as well. It affects respiration, germina-
tion, water loss, relative humidity, chemical composition
of tubers and the occurrence of diseases during the stor-
age period. Reference [16] Désiré et al. (1995) showed
that exposure to a period of cold can shorten the dor-
mancy of microtubers and that storage at 4˚C before
transfer to 19˚C, is also favorable for the germination of
microtubers and this regardless of tuberization time.
These results are consistent with our findings. At the
temperatures studied (25˚C, 27˚C and 30˚C) during the
incubation time, the lower the germination rate, the
slower the germination speed. Average temperatures be-
low 30˚C were more favorable for microtuber germina-
tion as excess heat produced also developed sprouts,
while cold temperatures result in deformed tuber. Indeed,
for all varieties, the most favorable temperature for mi-
crotuber germination was 25˚C, followed by 27˚C. With
these results, it can be concluded that average incubation
temperatures are more favorable for microtuber germina-
tion than higher temperatures. These results confirm
those of [17] who argued that the proper temperature for
tuber germination is between 18˚C and 25˚C.
Germination is a series of morphological, physiologi-
cal and biochemical processes that result in the transfor-
mation of the seedling during the development of the
future plant’s organs [18]. Organ development—leaves,
stems and roots—occurs as a result of cell division and
growth in the embryo. It is based on a series of chemical
and physical transformations at a higher level of organi-
zation and integration [19]. The germination process is
genetically programmed and modulated by the environ-
ment. Thus, when the tuber is placed in favorable envi-
ronmental conditions, the higher the number of sprouts,
the greater tuber size and weight [20]. Reference [21]
Désiré et al. (1995) assumed that the germination vigor
of microtubers depends on their size. Indeed, when the
size increases, the pool of reserves, particularly carbohy-
drates, is important and could thus be conducive to plant
development. These results are consistent with our find-
ings as the study of microtuber calibers on germination
revealed that microtubers greater than 4 mm germinate
faster and at a a higher rate than microtubers sized less
than 4 mm, for all genotypes. Similarly, the sprouts of
small-size microtubers take longer to reach a given
length than those of microtubers of greater grades.
The potato tuber seed is considered as a model organ
for a study of the aging plant [22-25]. In addition, phy-
siological age strongly influences its germination profile
and agronomic performances. The physiological state of
the mother-tuber not only affects germination, the speed
and growth capacity of sprouts, but also has a significant
impact on the development and productivity of plants
arising from the tuber [24]. To assess the “physiological
age” parameter, the average length of sprouts formed
was measured at each physiological stage of the micro-
tubers. Thus, rapid growth was recorded at “multiple
sprout” and “branched sprout” stages as opposed to slow
growth at the “monosprout” stage. These results confirm
those of [26], who suggested that germination rate can be
measured by the weight or length of sprouts formed over
a period of time. That process is initially low in the pe-
riod immediately subsequent to the end of dormancy. It
then gradually increases to a maximum and decreases to
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
A. Dieme, M. O. Sy / Advances in Bioscience and Biotechnology 4 (2013) 986-992 991
zero when sprouts start forming new tubers again. Ref-
erences [27,28] also demonstrated that as potato tubers
get physiologically older, germination occurs propor-
tionally faster. When physiologically young, microtubers
are either dormant or in a phase of insignificant germina-
tion. Then, as they get older, their germination vigor in-
creases and germination is therefore accelerated. In the
same manner, reference [26] confirmed that during the
dormant phase, the inability to grow is not necessarily a
specific characteristic of buds, but may result in a tem-
porary inability of the tuber to provide some metabolites
necessary for growth. These results are consistent with
our findings because with the Odessa variety, a latency
period occured during a week. This can be explained by
the fact that microtubers were still dormant when put to
germinate. At the end of dormancy, metabolites are re-
leased, making it possible for sprouts to grow from the
tuber. This release is gradual and as, the tuber gets phy-
siologically older, allows a more rapid growth of an in-
creasing number of sprouts.
Microtubers, at “multiple and branched sprout” stages
are more likely to germinate than sprouts of the “mono-
sprout” stage, with an average maximum sprout length of
2.35 cm, 2.48 cm and 1.5 cm, respectively. These results
confirm those of [29] and [24] explaining that the phy-
siological state of a tuber, at a given time, determines
vegetative growth. The “monosprout” stage is character-
ized by an apical dominance, the “multiple sprout” stage
by multiple germinations and rapid growth of sprouts
and the “branched sprouts” stage by stunted sprouts [30].
Experiments on the influence of temperature, size and
physiological age on the in vitro germination of micro-
tubers have enable us to conclude that the average tem-
perature of 25˚C is the most favorable for the germina-
tion of microtubers at a better and faster rate, irrespective
of the variety. Microtubers with a grade greater than 4
mm, germinated more quickly, and at a higher rate, than
those of a smaller caliber for all genotypes. Physiological
age influenced microtuber germination. In fact, the mean
length of sprouts was greater at “multiple sprout” and
“branched sprout” stages than at a “monosprout” stage.
Thus, it is necessary to plant microtubers at the “multiple
sprout” stage to optimize their performance for the vege-
tative growth of plants and minituber production.
Authors are grateful to Mrs. Aminata Sow for correcting the English
version of the manuscript.
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