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    Christine Fischer, Assoc. Member CTFC; CEO, Sitka Services LLC.

Innovation from the skies: Drone technology for dispersion of pelletized seeds for reforestation

Dronecoria, founded by Lot Amorós of Elche, Spain, is applying drone technology for dispersion of pelletized seeds for reforestation. He and his team were awarded $20,000 for their innovative development of a seed-coating method, which is critical for their approach to large scale, low-cost direct sowing of native seeds for ecosystem restoration.

Conservation X Labs is a US-based technology and innovation company that “spurs innovative solutions to stop the extinction crisis by harnessing genius solutions” from all over our planet.

Mr. Amorós who presented his project at the cross-cutting seminar Innovative Businesses and Entrepreneurship in Non-Wood Forest Products, 27 and 28 February 2020 in Barcelona, brought one of his light-weight and open-source drone models designed for the dispersion of seeds for global reforestation. Among the challenges they face is the design of the seed coat that must offer both protection from the elements and predators, and help provide nutrition for emerging seedlings.

As he explained, the technology of seed coating is complex and highly guarded in the agri-food sector. Their goal is to formulate ingredients and methods that are reliable and open sourced for world-wide, low-cost application in direct seeding of many plant and tree species for reforestation. This will reduce costs and limitations associated with transplanting of container seedlings, and open up possibilities for landscape level restoration beyond monoculture plantations.

The “Powerful Seeds” approach incorporates three basic technologies: 1) Priming, 2) Seed Coating and 3) Mycorrhizal Inoculation to support plant fungal symbiosis at the time of germination.

Priming of seeds to improve germination is being carried out by Daniel Calatayud of Semillistas in Granada. He experiments with priming techniques using many native seeds from the region. His work demonstrates that priming of seeds prior to direct sowing can prepare them for emergence even when rainfall is scarce. Unreliable germination and emergence are serious obstacles to direct seeding. More than 10,000 seeds were planted in the autumn of 2020 and germination has begun.

For the 2020 pilot project in the Sierra de Lujár of Andalusia, the mycorrhizal inoculations were coordinated by Christine Fischer of CTFC. Within the seed coats of Quercus seeds, spores of the summer truffle Tuber aestivum have been included. Truffle experts from La Rioja, Navarra, Soria and Catalonia have assisted in collection of truffles this past summer. Seedling survival and mycorrhizal status will be evaluated over this coming year. Stay tuned!