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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Aerial seeding to increase green cover in Aravallis

According to officials, the method involves spraying seed balls or seed pellets — seeds covered with a mixture of clay, compost, char, and other components — from the air.

Written by Sakshi Dayal | Gurgaon | July 30, 2020 3:00:30 am
Aerial seeding to increase green cover in Aravallis The seeding drone has been developed by an IIT-Kanpur startup

The Haryana Forest Department has employed aerial seeding technique to improve green cover in the Aravalli area of Faridabad. According to officials, the method involves spraying seed balls or seed pellets — seeds covered with a mixture of clay, compost, char, and other components — from the air. In Faridabad, these will be dispersed using “seeding drones” developed by a startup incubated at IIT-Kanpur.

“In the context of the Aravalli region…, this will be specially useful since there are many areas that are either difficult to reach or inaccessible altogether, making traditional methods of plantation difficult,” said an official from the Faridabad forest department.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Dr Amarinder Kaur said this project is being done in Haryana on a pilot basis “to regenerate the low vegetation density or denuded areas on inaccessible or difficult sites” of Aravalli and Shivalik hills.

The method of plantation is being implemented on 100 acres of land during the pilot phase “to test efficacy of the seed dispersal mechanism and review the success rate”. It was implemented in Yamunanagar and Mahendragarh earlier in July.

“It will also provide work opportunities to the local community, especially women, who can prepare the seed balls,” she said.

The species that will be planted in the Aravalli areas include Acacia senegal (Khairi), Ziziphus mauritiana (Beri), and Holarrhena spp (Inderjo), all of which have a higher chance of survival in these areas. Officials said “site specific” grass seeds will also be added to the mix as they serve as good soil binders.

The seeding drone is capable of carrying 2 kg of seeds at a time. It is equipped with a “precise delivery mechanism” for seeds of different sizes, which it drops at predetermined intervals from a height of 25 to 50 metres. A single drone, officials said, can plant 20,000-30,000 seeds a day.

Under phase 1 of the plantation in Faridabad, a five hectare area in the district’s Badkhal area will be targetted.

“The drones will disperse 5,000 seeds per hectare. Survival rate in this sort of plantation tends to be low, less than 50%. So, the point of planting such a high quantity is that, even if the survival rate is 20%, we will have 1,000 trees,” said Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Vinod Kumar.

Intervention from above

What is aerial seeding?

A plantation technique wherein seed balls — seeds covered with mixture of clay, compost, char and other components — are sprayed using aerial devices, including planes, helicopters or drones.

How does it work?

Seeds balls/pellets are dispersed in a targeted area by low-flying drones, with the coating providing
the required weight for seeds to airdrop on a pre-determined location rather than getting deterred by the wind. These pellets sprout when there is enough rain, with nutrients present within them helping in initial growth.

What are its advantages?

Areas that are inaccessible, having steep slopes or no forest routes, can be targeted using this method. The process of the seed’s germination and growth is such that it requires no attention after it is dispersed — the reason why seed pellets are known as the “fire and forget” way of plantation. They eliminate any need for ploughing and digging holes in the soil and do not need to be planted since they are already surrounded by soil, nutrients, and microorganisms. The clay shell also protects them from birds, ants and rats.

What kind of species can be dispersed?

Those native to the area and hardy, with seeds that are of an appropriate size for preparing seedballs, with a higher survival percentage. Officials say it is critical that the timing of the seeding be correct.

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