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Technology

Indian Scientists Are Experimenting With Drone Seed-bombing To Plant a Forest (factordaily.com) 44

An anonymous reader shares an article: "I'm basically from that area (Gauribidanur in Indian state of Karnataka); son of a farmer, came to academia... keen to bring back my younger days, when the river used to flow for three to four months a year. I need to rejuvenate it," says professor KPJ Reddy over a phone conversation. It's quite apparent from his tone that this experiment means a lot to him. A day earlier, on June 5, World Environment Day, Reddy, in collaboration with two other scientists at the Department of Aerodynamics, Bangalore, Dr H N Science Centre, and the Department of Forest, collectively held their first ever drone-seeding trial on the banks of river Pinakini in the Gauribidanur area in Karnataka's Kolar district. "For that, the only way is to reach by air. Doing it with big aircraft is expensive, and take-offs and landings are a problem. So the only way to do it is through drones," he says, when we meet a few days later at the IISc Campus in Bangalore. Over tea with professor S N Omkar, chief research scientist at IISc, he further elaborates on their plans. "What we have in mind is to at least seed 10,000 acres, and we will be doing this every year, for three consecutive years," he says.
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Indian Scientists Are Experimenting With Drone Seed-bombing To Plant a Forest

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  • loading a ton of seeds into a "bomb" sounds like a great way to spread them across large distances.

    • Unless your "bomb" damages the seeds in the process.

      • Re:Actually... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by laurencetux ( 841046 ) on Wednesday June 14, 2017 @09:23AM (#54616749)

        lots of ways to make sure most of the force goes outward and not inward (which you would want anyway if you are doing a seeding mission).

        1 bomblets with a secondary low power charge
        2 shaped charges pointing outward
        3 use DIRT as part of the payload (you might want to use some version of Miracle Grow(TM) depending on the target area)

        heck can you see a B-52 doing this kind of drop?? (bonus if the pilot is long haired and wearing beads/fringe)

      • Re:Actually... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday June 14, 2017 @09:28AM (#54616789)

        I am not sure it matters. Forests don't disappear because of a "lack of seeds", so just spraying seeds won't bring them back. What happened to the original forest?

        Here in California, our live oak forests are slowly disappearing. It is not due to a lack of seeds, but a lack of wolves. The wolves were exterminated more than a century ago. Since then, the deer population has exploded, and they devour the oak seedlings, but don't eat the foul tasting invasive eucalyptus seedlings. In the presence of wolves, there are not only fewer deer, but they also stay on the high ground, and avoid streambeds where they can be cornered, thus allowing the oaks to flourish there.

        We have big gnarly oaks that are hundreds of years old, a few tiny seedlings that will soon be eaten ... and nothing in between.

        • Clearly, the solution is to breed giant monster deers that can eat those hundreds of years old big gnarly oaks.

        • Re:Actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Wednesday June 14, 2017 @09:53AM (#54616991)

          I am not sure it matters. Forests don't disappear because of a "lack of seeds", so just spraying seeds won't bring them back. What happened to the original forest?

          Here in California, our live oak forests are slowly disappearing. It is not due to a lack of seeds, but a lack of wolves. The wolves were exterminated more than a century ago. Since then, the deer population has exploded, and they devour the oak seedlings, but don't eat the foul tasting invasive eucalyptus seedlings. In the presence of wolves, there are not only fewer deer, but they also stay on the high ground, and avoid streambeds where they can be cornered, thus allowing the oaks to flourish there.

          We have big gnarly oaks that are hundreds of years old, a few tiny seedlings that will soon be eaten ... and nothing in between.

          So either expand bag limits and/or the dates of deer hunting season. From a quick google search, it appears hunters are only allowed 2 deer per season, only one of which can be a buck. So at best a hunter can only take 1 breeding pair per year. Allow more bucks to be taken and you will probably see a lot more hunters going out-because who doesn't like a good trophy-and will probably make a bigger dent in the population, since fewer males=less breeding. Or just allow more depredation hunts, or sanction some culls confined to specific areas and closely monitored by game warders.

          • So either expand bag limits and/or the dates of deer hunting season.

            Good luck getting approval to kill Bambi from urban California voters.

            a bigger dent in the population, since fewer males=less breeding.

            Did you sleep through biology class? Bucks provide zero parental care, and one buck can "service" many does. So unless you kill all the bucks, shooting them will not affect the birth rate.

            • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

              So either expand bag limits and/or the dates of deer hunting season.

              Good luck getting approval to kill Bambi from urban California voters.

              Tell them its either Bambi or they will run out of trees to hug. Although that moral dilemma might just make their heads explode.

              • Tell them its either Bambi or they will run out of trees to hug.

                That very argument has been made many times to justify wildlife culls to urban voters. It has never worked. Especially with cute animals.

                Although that moral dilemma might just make their heads explode.

                Their attention span is not long enough for that to happen.

          • Short of eliminating the males all together you won't reduce the amount of breeding significantly, better to allow more doe harvesting.

            The males are quite capable of impregnating dozens of females in a breeding season and females that aren't bred with during the first round can be ready again in a few weeks.

          • So either expand bag limits and/or the dates of deer hunting season. From a quick google search, it appears hunters are only allowed 2 deer per season, only one of which can be a buck. So at best a hunter can only take 1 breeding pair per year. Allow more bucks to be taken and you will probably see a lot more hunters going out-because who doesn't like a good trophy-and will probably make a bigger dent in the population, since fewer males=less breeding. Or just allow more depredation hunts, or sanction some culls confined to specific areas and closely monitored by game warders.

            No, to limit the population you'd have to kill off the females, as they're the ones doing the breeding.

            One remaining (lucky) buck can service any number of does.

        • And the hunters don't cull the herd? Or is that verboten in California?
        • White tailed deer are a plague species that spreads wherever man allows them. They replace native species in many areas. What is even more of a problem is that large deep populations are seen by many as evidence that nature is thriving. And a significant number of the people who actually get out into the woods are white tailed deer fans because they enjoy recreationally hunting them.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I am not sure it matters. Forests don't disappear because of a "lack of seeds", so just spraying seeds won't bring them back. What happened to the original forest?

          Here in California, our live oak forests are slowly disappearing. It is not due to a lack of seeds, but a lack of wolves. The wolves were exterminated more than a century ago. Since then, the deer population has exploded, and they devour the oak seedlings, but don't eat the foul tasting invasive eucalyptus seedlings. In the presence of wolves, there are not only fewer deer, but they also stay on the high ground, and avoid streambeds where they can be cornered, thus allowing the oaks to flourish there.

          We have big gnarly oaks that are hundreds of years old, a few tiny seedlings that will soon be eaten ... and nothing in between.

          So I'd say in California's case, the better solution would be to "seed" your oak forests with wolves using drones!

    • Is spreading the seeds really the issue? I would think a seed just dropped to the ground has a really low probability of growing into a tree. Most tree species drop thousands of seeds every single year, forests would sprout like weeds everywhere if that was all it took. We probably couldn't cut them down fast enough.
  • by Toad-san ( 64810 ) on Wednesday June 14, 2017 @09:21AM (#54616725)

    If you don't know what destroyed the old forests, you'll not have much luck creating new ones. Goats in the area? Fageddaboudit. Villagers chopping down everything to feed animals, cook food, warm huts, make charcoal? That's what makes it impossible to regrow forests in places like Haiti: the people cut them down faster than anyone can grow them.

  • Natural drones (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 14, 2017 @09:27AM (#54616781)

    Over here in Berlin, they are using natural drones [www.taz.de].

    Background: the jay buries all those things it thinks it might need next winter -- among them, of course tree seeds (especially oak). But alas, it keeps forgetting a few of them :-)

    So just organizing an abundant oak seed offer at strategic places they do their job (not everywhere, alas, that's where biologists come in). And they *bury* the seeds (OK, they eat some of them, but hey, you've to recharge your drone batteries too). And *they even 3D print replicas of themselves*!

    Now I'm not implying that one should not hack away on drones. Just that a complete knowledge of the ecosystem might be advantageous.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... into bread. And let the Indian population spread them naturally.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Drones are a great solution for a country like India with a crippling shortage of affordable human labor.

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