Abstract Seed priming (controlled imbibition) is a widely used technique for improving crop establishment, because it allows a reduction of the time to radicle emergence following seed imbibition and synchronization of individual seeds within seed lots with respect to germination timing. The major problem encountered in seed priming is the control of seed imbibition to a level permitting pre-germinative processes to proceed but that blocks radicle emergence. If not, the consequence of drying back the seeds to initial moisture content for storage purposes could be a total loss of the treated batch. This is because, as long as radicle growth has not begun, seeds may be re-dried without any permanent deleterious effects upon subsequent germination or growth. Recently, we reported the discovery of a molecular marker of sugar beet seed priming, corresponding to the basic B-subunit of the seed storage protein 11S globulin. An ELISA based upon this molecular marker has been used to analyse how different sugar beet seed lots respond to a priming treatment. The results demonstrate that this ELISA allows us to readily distinguish between the primed seeds and the corresponding untreated seeds.