Seed ball strategies for gardening and restoration in arid landscapes
To overcome challenges associated with gardening and restoration in arid landscapes, many techniques have been developed, including the strategic placement of irrigation lines, the application of mulch, and the improved selection of plant species and varieties. One technique that shows particular promise across both research and practitioner groups is the use and deployment of seed balls.
Seed balls (also referred to as ‘seed pellets’ or ‘seed bombs’) are structures typically made of clay, compost, water and seed (but can include a huge range of ingredients including soil, rock dust, cat litter, coffee grounds, cayenne pepper, sand, worm castings and mycorrhizal fungi). These structures can ameliorate conditions that contribute to failure in arid land restoration (Madsen et al. 2016), including dry conditions that exacerbate seed desiccation stress and create soil crusts that limit seedling establishment, as well as seed loss via predation (typically by rodents and ants). Seed balls also serve to enhance seed to soil contact and reduce seed redistribution by wind. In theory, seeds are protected in the structure until adequate rainfall removes the surrounding clay and a small pocket of nutrients from the compost component of the seed ball nourishes the seedlings as they emerge. Seed balls are cheap and easy to make and can enhance germination of seeded species (Pedrini et al. 2017).
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