Since June 2018 MAS Holdings has been experimenting on a new tool against deforestation that could change how Sri Lanka protects and grow its future forests. Seeds balls are an ancient technique for propagating plants from seeds without opening up soil with cultivation tools such as a plow. The rediscovery and modern popularization of seed balls is credited to Japanese natural farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka.
MAS Holdings integrated the seed-balling project into its sustainability action plan in June 2018 with the expertise of the University of Peradeniya. Prof. D.K.N.G. Pushpakumara the Dean of the Agriculture faculty and his teams have been carrying out years of research into the aerial reforestation method that throws or drops hundreds of seeds wrapped in clay or soil across a defined land area to encourage the growth of new saplings and vegetation.
“This was a delicate task – there was a lot to consider, measure and create. First, we reached out to the Forest Conservation Department who we already work with closely, and they found us a 5-acre plot in Nochchiyagama Anuradhapura which was a degraded plot of land that had lost all its forest cover. Then the challenge was to actually create these seed bombs which required a combination of the right forest trees to fit the climate zone, the right clay, soil and compost combination to fit the chosen seeds.” Sharika Senanayake – Director of Environmental Sustainability for MAS Holdings.
MAS found equally enthusiastic partners in the Sri Lanka Air Force, who had also been researching how to implement a seed bombing reforestation technique and immediately agreed to provide essential aerial assistance for the project.
Group Captain Gihan Seneviratne Sri Lanka Air Force media spokesman says “The Air Force, under the leadership of the Commander of the Air Force, has been actively involved in a number of efforts to restore the forest cover of Sri Lanka. Our involvement in the pioneering Seed Bombing Project is a continuation and reaffirmation of our commitment to this endeavor. Entrusted as we are with the protection of national security through the judicious use of Air Power, we are happy to be able to bring that Air Power to bear in a truly timely and essential enterprise, in order to do our part to ensure a truly green future for our future generations.”
Inside the plant nursery of the MAS Fabric Park in Thulhiriya MAS conducted trial runs on the seed ball composition with a limited amount of seed bombs where germination and growth rate were studied in-house. Together with the Air Force the teams also carried out drop tests on a limited amount of seed balls from designated heights.
MAS picked 3 types of seeds … Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna), Karanda (Pongamia pinnata) and Mee (Madhuca longifolia) for the pilot drop.
“By November the teams finalized the research methodology which included determining the different compositions of the seed balls, tagging system, sampling system and monitoring schedule. The allocated land in Nochchiyagama was checked and prepared and marked out to ensure follow up observations can be conducted at the site. Wednesday was a landmark day for us all to be able to finally let these colourful bombs free fall and settle in their new home. Now we wait and monitor their germination.”
Sri Lanka is losing over 8,000 hectares of forests each year. Our future forests will depend on powerful partnerships that bring creative reforestation ideas to life. This is a project we are ready to document in detail and share with the rest of the world. To be part of it contact the key stakeholders involved in this project:
MAS Holdings – Sustainability@masholdings.com