Using a seed-bombing drone, a team of scientists from the Department of Aerodynamics, Bangalore, are planning to restore 10,000 acres of barren land in Karnataka over a period of 3 years.
The team, which is working in partnership with the Karnataka Department of Forest, is currently in the experimental phase of the operation which will use a drone to efficiently dispense seeds, faster than any human would be able to, whilst recording and mapping the project so that it can be studied for impact.
“The advantage with drones is that we have the image before dropping the seeds, and can geotag the path. Subsequently, once every three months we can fly over that area and see the impact of dropping the seeds,” one of the scientists, Professor Omkar told Factor Daily.
The targeted area of land is spread around the Doddaballapur hill range, north of Bangalore. The team are optimistic and estimate that the drone could restore an area of 10,000 acres of forest with 3 seed bombings over a period of 3 years.
For many years, Gauribidanur in Karnataka has laid barren after being stripped of all life as a result of deforestation. One of the scientists behind the plan, Professor KPJ Reddy, grew up in the area and has fond memories of playing in the forests as a child, when it used to be lush and green and teaming with wildlife. He has hopes that soon the forest will return to how it once was.
“I played in those forests. The river used to flow for four months a year but now sees flowing water during the rainy season. The dream is to bring it back. I don’t know if we will succeed, but I am optimistic,” Reddy told Factor Daily.
The onboard camera on the drone ensures that the operation can be recorded and monitored. The team plans to deploy the drone on 3 occasions and study the images collected so that they are able to track the impact of the seeding.
On this year’s World Environment Day, the team conducted their first live experiment using the seed-bombing drone on the banks of river Pinakini in the Gauribidanur area in Karnataka’s Kolar district. They intend to conduct a scientific study of the findings and start the main operation during this year’s monsoon rains where seeds can germinate.
Seed-bombing is a technique of planting trees by embedding organic seed balls in the ground. The advantage of seedbombs is that they do not need to be completely buried in the ground in order for them to germinate. However, the disadvantage is that not all seeds will sprout. To increase the odds of germination, the seeds being used for the operation will be wrapped in balls of manure and soil, prepared by the Department of Forests in Kolar. The tree species chosen include Amla, tamarind, as well as a dozen other native tree species.
An earlier version of this article reported the forest area as 30,000 acres. The error is regretted.