Croatian seed dispersing drones replant fire damaged forests

OKLAJ, Croatia, Nov. 17 (Reuters) – Seed-disseminating drones fly across Croatian skies in an airborne attempt to replant isolated fire-damaged forests, an initiative its donors aim to promote internationally.

The tactic isn’t new, but the company in Croatia disperses the seeds in containers larger than those seen elsewhere – the size of a golf ball – releasing ingredients to form a rooting-friendly microenvironment. of a seed, say its creators.

“In addition to an acorn, we also put sand, grass, clay and chili inside,” said Goran Ladisic, one of the executives of the Magic Forest company which manages the project.

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“It is important to note that we are adding chili because this way the wild animals – in the case of an oak tree, they are wild boars – will not eat the seeds.”

Summer forest fires in Croatia often occur in areas that are difficult to access on foot, so the airborne method makes sense, according to project managers. This week, Magic Forest scattered the seed balls in the municipality of Promina, in the south of the country.

“We opted for this innovative method because we have had a lot of forest fires in our region, the last big one in 2009, and what is growing now are just low bushes,” said Tihomir Budanko, mayor of the municipality of Promina.

The company has been in development for more than two years. Ladisic said that in testing, more than 40 percent of the scattered seeds were successful in taking root.

Ivan Vidakovic, who controls drone flights, said that in eight hours, using four or five drones, the project can cover around 10 hectares (24 acres).

The idea is to replant an area with native trees, and although the project has so far only used seeds from various types of oak, it says it can work with any seed from tree.

Magic Forest says it has been in contact with partners in Ukraine, Bosnia, Montenegro, Austria and California with a view to deploying the product next year.

The Croatian innovators also aim to participate in a European Union campaign to plant three billion more trees by 2030 to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss.

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Reporting by Antonio Bronic and Igor Ilic, editing by William Maclean

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