Do polyembryonic seeds of Carapa surinamensis (Meliaceae) have advantages for seedling development?

ABSTRACT Polyembryony is the differentiation and development of multiple embryos in a single seed. This characteristic can provide advantages, as more than one embryo is produced with the same amount of resources, and the probability of establishment of at least one seedling increases. However, sibling seedlings may also increase competition, affecting development and survival. In the present study, the possible advantages and disadvantages of polyembryony were analyzed in the initial establishment of seedlings of Carapa surinamensis (Meliaceae), a tree species that produces monoembryonic or polyembryonic seeds. In this regard, the development of single seedlings was compared with a pair of seedlings emerging from polyembryonic seeds. We compared the development of seedlings attached to or detached from each other and to the seed resources. We observed two levels of competition: (a) for the seed reserves during germination and initial development, as multiple embryos of C. surinamensis share the same reserves, and (b) for external factors, mostly space for root and shoot development, and also for light. Reducing the competition for external factors by separating the siblings was not enough to reduce the effects of competition for seed reserves in the first six months of development. Nevertheless, viable seedlings were produced in all treatments. Thus, depending on sprout management in the nursery, the number of seedlings per seed can be significantly increased by detaching the seedlings, or more vigorous seedlings can be obtained when only one seedling is maintained.