Thailand Creating Forests by Dropping Millions of Trees Out of Aircraft

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As a result of deforestation, only 6.2 million square kilometers remain of the original 16 million square kilometers of forest that formerly covered Earth. Apart from adveserly impacting people’s livelihoods, rampant deforestation around the world is threatening a wide range of tree species, including the Brazil nut and the plants that produce cacao and açaí palm; animal species, including critically-endangered monkeys in the remote forests of Vietnam’s Central Highlands, and contributing to climate change instead of mitigating it (15% of all greenhouse gas emissions are the result of deforestation).

While the world’s forest cover is being unabashedly destroyed by industrial agriculture, cattle ranching, illegal logging and infrastructure projects, Thailand has found a unique way to repair its deforested land: by using a farming technique called seed bombing or aerial reforestation, where trees and other crops are planted by being thrown or dropped from an airplane or flying drone.

The Guardian explains how seed bombing works:

The tree cones are pointed and designed to bury themselves in the ground at the same depth as if they had been planted by hand. They contain fertilizer and a material that soaks up surrounding moisture, watering the roots of the tree. The containers are metal but rot immediately so the tree can put its roots into the soil.

In July 2013, Thailand began a five-year pilot project that utilized the aerial reforestation method to boost forest regeneration. Seeds from local plants including phayungs, maka mongs and kaboks were dropped with the aim of regenerating a wildlife sanctuary in Phitsanulok province, transforming it into a healthy, green forest by 2017.

The idea of seed bombing first germinated in Japan with the ancient practice of “tsuchi dango” or “earth dumpling.” In the 20th century, Masanobu Fukuoka, an advocate of “Do Nothing Farming,” popularized the idea.  The earliest known record of seed bombing goes back to 1930, when planes were used to reforest certain areas in the mountains of Honolulu.

But the idea to adopt the seed farming on an industrial scale, to repopulate vast areas with trees, didn’t get the required attention until 1999, when the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin Aerospace planned to plant 900,000 young trees in a day. Their plan to use huge C-130 transport aircraft, normally used by the military for laying carpets of landmines across combat zones, was considered for Scotland – at half the cost of manual methods.

Planes are widely used to fight wildfires, drop relief material in times of calamities, fly, as  well as bomb people, but the idea of repairing what we destroyed – even with a 70% success rate – is our best weapon against deforestation. What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

seed bombing


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17 COMMENTS

  1. “In July 2013, Thailand began a five-year pilot project that utilized the aerial reforestation method” Would have been nice to give some update on how it is working, given they are 3 years in…

  2. What a brilliant idea that a country has started using more effective measures to replant the rest of the world needs to follow suit now

  3. What a great scheme and what a shame it is not being copied by Madagascar, Brazil, Venezuela and all all the other deforested regions in the world.

    • To begin with Martin Marietta developed the program; so we in fact do have it. But more importantly we don’t need it. Forests in the US have been managed for a hundred years or more. Finally logging of virgin forest has slowed to a crawl because of the tree huggers, necessitating this program even less.

  4. Aerial seeding is taking off in Kenya as well 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xl0Bj1R8Yk and has landed with a great amount of support. This helps to grow trees in two ways – we of course spread indigenous acacia tree seeds on old charcoal making areas and also this helps grow the national seed collecting industry and provides much needed revenue to the Govt. Forest Service (KEFRI) to help them grow more trees for seed! Please see http://www.seedballskenya.com for more 🙂

  5. Dear sirs. I need to get in touch with Mr. Fukuoka or somebody that can help me donthis in Honduras, Central America. Please send me contact. My mail is fbrevem at gmail dot com

    • Fedeico Breve: Masanobu Fukuoka, called the ‘father of natural farming’, died some years ago. But there is his book “Sowing the Desert” which describes it and the underlying philosophy and approach (first described in One-Straw Revolution in which he describes his philosophy and how he can developed it, which can be found on line). Search under “natural farming” for other work inspired by him. The work of the Japanese apple farmer by the name of Akinori Kimora was also inspired by him and the English translation of the book about him called “Miracle Apples” can to be found online. There is also something called Alley Cropping developed by Mike Hand, I believe in Central America. Bhaskar Save developed an analogous technique to Hand’s in a different ecological setting in India. Dan Shepherd developed a temperate version of alley cropping in the United States. Just a few examples.

  6. Brilliant idea!
    They should do this worldwide and include wild flower drops! And bee freindly​
    Plants and shrubs!

    • Probably it could be undertaken even more effectively and faster based on understanding of local ways of natural succession, in which a series of different combinations of plants fill disturbed areas and transition from one to another in creating eventually a climax forest. This is what the traditional swidden farming was based upon, allowing each group of plants in the sequence to prepare the ground and make the ecosystem conducive for the subsequent combinations. Forest, after all, is not just trees but an ecosystem including complex relationships between trees mediated by microorganisms in the soil. The first thing nature does is establish a combination of fast spreading annual plants that quickly secure and begin to prepare the soils. From within this perennials grow and push out the annuals, and from within these the slow-growing trees gradually extend upwards and shade over everything. The different kinds of trees furthermore replace one with others.

    • Fukuoka utilized handmade clay casings, as many of his followers do for not just trees but for vegetable and grain seeds as well. Perhaps the containers show here are used to make them plunge into the soil when dropped from altitude by an airplane.

    • Maybe it’s not a big deal, but… Great thing this forests creating and especially with wide range of different tree varieties.

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