Seed Balls Dispersal: A Natural and Ancient Cultivation Technique
Seed balls are natural way of dispersing seeds without doing any farming or modern farming. It is an ancient technique in which there is no tillage, no weeding, no pruning of ground is done, in this method fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides or any kind of chemicals are not used. Seed balls are self-sufficient and can survive more than two months without water. Seed balls are nothing but balls of clay, manure and seeds. Basically seed balls encase seeds in clay to protect it from predators and other environmental factors until they germinate.
Seed balls were most probably firsts used by Egyptians and later by Asian people but its practice was lost due to modern methods of agriculture until when a Japanese Agriculturist “Masanobu Fukuoka” rejuvenated this technique in Japan after World War II, and succeeded in increasing crop production in his country. According to him natural farming prevents water pollution, biodiversity loss and soil erosion and also fulfill human requirement of food. Natural farming is a close system in which there is no human input and it is almost like natural growing of trees in forest. Farmers are also benefited by this method as it produces more resistant plants, without using fertilizers, retains nutrition and taste. Seed balls utilize unused land, arid land and slopes.
In India natural farming is often referred to as “Rishi Kheti” which means farming done by Stage. In this type of farming ancient Vedic principles are used. Animal waste and herbs are used for pest control and growth promoter for example cow dungs and cow urine are good for growth of plants.
In seed balls red powered clay (5 parts) or terracotta clay (3 parts), humus or compost, seeds (of resilient and endemic plants) and water (one part each) is used to make small balls. Seed balls are somewhat like endospores of some Bacteria that resistant to environmental stress and remain dormant till favorable conditions. Although bacterial endospores are asexual and are just seed like structures not a true seed/ spore. Seed balls are just a method of seed dispersal with protection provided with nutrition.
In India seed balls are made from cow dung, clay, red soil, cow urine and seeds. Cow dung and cow urine act as natural compost, which prevent the seed balls from microbial attacks. A campaign “Spare A Day For Nature- Seed Ball Maha (big) Abhiyana (campaign) ” started in India recently, in which government and private sector employees are asked for one-day participation for this natural practice for the environment. This year it started in month of April to make seed balls ready before monsoon arrives.
Things can change with such innovative ideas and we can restructure our ecosystem biodiversity as well, thanks to “Masanobu Fukuoka”.