Interesting concept that could be applied more broadly than this New Yorker article covers, even.
One way to restore degraded soil is to plant trees—lots of them. The catch is that seeds and saplings won’t grow in such soil, but if a young tree becomes large enough that its roots can reach groundwater it stands an excellent chance of thriving. Previous efforts often followed two paths: cumbersome and impractical irrigation techniques, or tossing a few million seeds out of an airplane and hoping for the best. Ruys’s innovation was to develop a doughnut-shaped waxed-paper cocoon, the base of which is buried underground. It contains the sapling, enough water to sustain the tree while it establishes a root system, and a small lozenge of beneficial fungi. The cocoon is cheap, easy to plant, scalable—a community can plant hundreds of acres of them in a short time—and biodegradable. Rubio told me that in the desert regions of Spain where his organization is working, other efforts have resulted in a success rate of ten to twenty per cent; “the cocoon,” he said, “is providing around ninety-five per cent survival rate of trees.”
20 acres, previously farmed with tree lines, 36' of elevation change over 1,300 feet of south facing slope, 7,000+ trees planted so far in previously tilled acres at a density of ~500 per acre.
Thank you for sharing! I'm very interested in this setup! For my job I run a large restoration program for a non-profit - this year we planted over 40,000 nativetrees and shrubs at a range of projects. Traditionally, this sort of work has been done where we plant the trees in the fall/winter in mass. We then place plant protectors over them, then mulch in the spring and finally water and clear weeds as needed in the summer. Doing all this takes a lot of labor and time and generally we are unable to water all the plants or mulch them all due to large number of plants we plant and the fact that our office only has 8 full time staff and I'm the only one focused on restoration. We hire field crews but generally only have them for a few weeks to a month a couple times a year.
Using the system mentioned in the article we could potentially complete all our major tasks in the fall/winter and greatly reduce the time we spend at the sites in the summer months. I don't think this would work at all of our sites (we don't have access to water at all of them - though we do have a water trailer) but it could be a huge help at some.
We are getting ready to try a couple new techniques out this fall (new for the general restoration community but fairly standard in the permaculture community) and I think I will try out the system mentioned in the article next year. I'm going to be running a series of experiments that will hopefully result in some published research to prove that the new systems work and I think adding this new system for our dry sites could be really interesting.
Depending on the cost I think I might try this new system out at my own property - could be a great way to get some of my fruit trees established!
Thanks again for sharing!
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