Priming improves an organism's performance upon a future stress. To test whether cold priming supports protection in spring and how it is affected by cold acclimation, we compared seven Arabidopsis accessions with different cold acclimation potentials in the field and in the greenhouse for growth, photosynthetic performance and reproductive fitness in March and May after a 14 day long cold-pretreatment at 4 °C. In the plants transferred to the field in May, the effect of the cold pretreatment on the seed yield correlated with the cold acclimation potential of the accessions. In the March transferred plants, the reproductive fitness was most supported by the cold pretreatment in the accessions with the weakest cold acclimation potential. The fitness effect was linked to long-term effects of the cold pretreatment on photosystem II activity stabilization and leaf blade expansion. The study demonstrated that cold priming stronger impacts on plant fitness than cold acclimation in spring in accessions with intermediate and low cold acclimation potential.
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