Seed ball, also known as an earth ball, is a combination of materials such as soil, seeds, water, fertilizers, and other optional materials for concealing the seed from adverse climatic conditions and promoting the establishment of seedlings. It is a cost-effective and ecologically acceptable approach to obtain high-quality pelleted seeds for rangelands and forests.
History of Seed Balls:
Masanobu Fukuoka, a founder of Japanese natural farming, promoted seed balls in his 1975 book, ”The One-Straw Revolution”. Fukuoka used seed bombs, also known as “soil dumplings,” to sow his farm fields without cultivating them first.
Need of Seed Balls:
Only a few plants may be found among the wide desert terrain of Pakistan. Short rainy seasons, poor soil quality, and a lack of water-holding capacity in these places make it difficult for native seeds to germinate. These troubling areas can be treated using seed balls. The establishment of seedlings in arid climates is the main benefit of adopting seed ball technology. In comparison to regular seeds, seeds cultivated by seed balls have a good stand and maximum emergence under desert circumstances. Additionally, it reduces the possibility of seed germination failure and resolves vegetation-related issues with the environment, soil, and forests that lead to an increase in forestation.
Formation of Seed Ball:
A variety of recipes that call for various components can be used to manufacture seed balls. Seed balls can also incorporate modifications as necessary, depending upon the size of the ball to be attained and the characteristics of the site where it is to be thrown. Relative amounts of ingredients like clay, compost, sand, loam, water, seed, and other amendments are combined together to make a slurry type material. Then balls are made from this slurry and are stored under shade conditions (@25-30oC for 24 hours). Seeds of vegetables, fruits, some cereals, legumes, and forest species are best suited for seed ball formation.
Amendments Required in Seed Ball Formation:
- Fertilizer (Organic/Inorganic)
- Wood ash
- Microbial agents (PGPR)
Seed Placement and Size of Seed Balls:
For small-seeded crops and trees, 1–10 seeds within the seed balls should be used, and for large-seeded species, you should put 1–5 seeds in the ball. There are three ways of seed placement within the seed ball:
- Centralized Placement
- Placement at edges
- Uniform placement in entire ball
- Seed balls can be made of different sizes ranging from 1″ to 3″ according to seed size and locations
How to Spread Seed Balls?
- Hand spreading
- Through drones
- Through helicopters
- Through broadcaster
Importance of Seed Balls:
- Seed ball is the easiest method of plantation because it requires less effort
- Make seed more resistant to harsh climate conditions
- Increases the chances for seeds to become healthy seedlings
- Make sure food reserves and nutrients are available for seeds at sensitive stages
- Protect seeds from birds, rodents, and other animals
- Help in the recreation of habitats and afforestation
- Help to increase vegetation in deserts with the good establishment of seedlings
- Require less water
- They can improve soil fertility when they contain deep-rooted or fine-rooted species that have nitrogen-fixing symbionts
- Help to grow plants in places where they are needed the most
- Require less time to grow more vegetation
- Eco-friendly way of getting plants
- Help to grow plants in inaccessible and remote areas
- Good for plantation in dry and compacted soils
- Low labour costs
Limitations of Using Seed Balls:
- Less contact of seed ball with soil
- Wrong time of dispersal
- Wrong sites for dispersal
- Seed placement within ball
- High temperature risks due to excess use of manures and mulches
- Inadequate number of seeds in ball
- Requirement of well-trained labour
Seed balls are the future of plantation in Pakistan and throughout the globe. It is the easiest and most eco-friendly method to grow maximum vegetation in rangelands and deserts. Seeds obtain all the essential nutrients and moisture from these balls for the emergence of seedlings. They have high resistance against harsh climatic conditions, biotic and abiotic stresses. They are especially useful for cultivating locally native species.
Muhammad Usama Ali1, Sawan Chand2 and Muhmmad Umar Latif3
M.Sc.(Hons.) Agronomy, Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture Faisalabad
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