Seedballs for Reforestation

Seedball. Acacia seedling germinating from a seedball. Photo: Teddy Kinyanjui, Kenya Seedball company.

Seedballs for reforestation.

May 2018. Seedballs are a form of direct seeding, where the seeds are coated within a ball of clay or other materials such as biochar and then spread by various means. They are mostly used in reforestation, but can also be used to improve pasture, establish mixed improved fallows, wind breaks, wood lots, for biochar or charcoal production, etc.

Thanks to Teddy Kinyanjui of Kenya Seedballs for kindly supplying most of these photos. Teddy is the son of Dr. Maxwell Kinyanjui who invented the popular Jiko stove (a fuel-efficient cooker which reduces fuel wood collection and deforestation, and produces biochar). Teddy and his sisters have continued their father’s legacy.

Unless otherwise stated, the photos are by Teddy or his brother-in-law. See their web site: http://www.cookswelljikos.com. Contact: seedballskenya@gmail.com and cookswelljikos@gmail.com.

Spreading seedballs by hand in Kenya.

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Seedball infographic.

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The problems

Environmental degradation can be due to many causes, including prolonged and repeated droughts, fuel wood collection, and poorly managed livestock grazing for example, all of which reduces the vegetation cover and exposes the soil.

These problems may then be exacerbated by heavy flooding rains which can cause massive erosion gullies and the loss of precious top soil.

The end result may be that natural vegetation and previously productive agricultural land turns into dongas and dust bowls. (donga is a South African name for an erosion gully).

Dust storm. Suswa, Kenya, East Africa.

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The quote below eloquently tells the tragic story of environmental degradation in South Africa. From the book “Cry the beloved country” by Alan Paton:

paton-quote (3)

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Erosion gullies, Kenya.

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Erosion gully on a grand scale. Madagascar. Photo: Gary Mojombo.

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Deforestation due to charcoal making. Kenya.

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Deforestation due to charcoal making.

Charcoal production is a major cause of deforestation in Kenya (and elsewhere in Africa) and the Kenyan government has recently banned the sale of charcoal. This may seem like a good thing, but around 80% or more of Kenyans use charcoal for basic cooking and heating, and alternatives need to be found, or charcoal needs to come from legitimate and sustainable sources. One possibility would be to use Zai holes and arborloos (see the “Arborloo” page on this site) to grow fast-growing plants such as Sesbania sesban (in wetter climates and soils), bamboos, and possibly Acacia holosericea, Acacia torulosa, or similar, (in drier climates/soils). Perhaps the Kenyan government could subsidise legitimate and sustainable wood and charcoal production in Zai holes and arborloos. In the mean time, people will probably simply adapt and clandestinely barter charcoal.

Hard compacted subsoil exposed in an erosion gully. Kenya.

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Erosion, Kenya.

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Erosion, USA. Photo: Ellis Dieperink on unsplash.com.

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Seedballs as a solution

See also on this site the Animal Improved Dung plus Seeds treatment, where animals can be fed seeds and spread the seeds in their manure. This system could be used in conjunction with seedballs.

Seedball infographic.

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Seedballs coated with biochar.

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Seedball. Acacia seedling germination. Kenya.

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Acacia seedling germinating from a seed ball.

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Grass seedlings growing out of a seedball.

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Acacia seedlings establishing from seedballs..

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Measuring young acacia tree grown from a seedball.

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Root growing through the seedball and into the soil.

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Seedling protected by surrounding rocks from livestock grazing.

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Seeds germinating from seedballs.

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Acacia seedling, establishing from a seedball.

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Seedlings germinating from seedballs.

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Spreading seedballs

By hand:

Spreading seedballs by hand.

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Spreading seedballs by hand.

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Spreading seedballs by hand.

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Spreading seedballs by hand.

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Spreading seedballs by hand.

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By catapult:

Using a catapult to spread seedballs.

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Using a catapult to spread seedballs.

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Using a catapult to distribute seedballs in Kenya. Photo: SeedballsKenya.com.

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Spreading seedballs by catapult.

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By dog:

Meet Barclay. On the job helping the pack. Spreading seed by dog… a whole new meaning to the term working dog. The job description presumably states “other duties as directed”.

Mans’ best friend is always happy to help the human pack.

Team member.

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Geared up for the job.

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By air:

Spreading seedballs by air.

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Spreading seedballs by air.

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Spreading seedballs by air.

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Spreading seedballs by air.

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More photos

Vegetation along contours reduce erosion. In the Philippines they have refined techniques for planting along contours, called SALT, “Sloping agricultural land technology”.

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Cookswell Jiko stove. A fuel efficient cooker which reduces the need for fuel and therefore reduces deforestation, as well as producing biochar. A win-win situation.

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Nitrogen-fixing Sesbania sesban is one of the fastest growing trees in the world, established in this case by seedballs.

Sesbania species in Africa and Asia should grow very quickly in zai holes and arborloos, producing animal fodder, fuel wood and possibly charcoal/biochar.

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A bee visiting Sesbania sesban flowers.

Sesbania sesban and other Sesbania species are very useful as easy to establish fast-growing trees for reforestation, nitrogen-fixation, fuel wood production, fallows, etc.

Seedballs.

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Seedballs.

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Germinating seedballs. Photo: Kathryn Maguire, intoparadiseregained.wordpress.com.

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Prevention is better than cure. Photo by Shel on unsplash.com. Erosion in the USA.

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Seedballs have great potential for reforestation around the world, following the example set by the Kenyans.

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