Precision Direct Seeding

What is direct seeding?

Direct seeding is best when combined with scarification. We use equipment, such as a skidder with a disc trencher attachment to scarify the block, aligning slash and exposing mineral soil. At the same time, a direct seeder attachment blows seeds onto the exposed, raised mineral soil.

Troubles with the Tried and True

For over five decades reforestation has been done by hand, with armies of tree planters marching over much of Western Canada every summer, toting shovels and bags of saplings. While this is a tried and true system, it is inefficient, requiring many people, many vehicles, and a lot of resources. With more options now, university students no longer flood to help, resulting in fewer tree planters. This lack has tree planting companies struggling to keep up with demand. This is where direct seeding can alleviate some of the burden.

Why Direct seed?

Direct seeding gets rid of these inefficiencies and high costs, making reforestation a more manageable proposition. It is a cost-efficient tree-seeding technique that can cover a greater area in less time. On the right block, direct seeding can replace the tree planters, checkers, and foremen with a single, trained equipment operator and their machine. By replacing the vast network that is traditional tree planting, we can cut costs by 50 per cent, increasing your return on investment and doing our part in your sustainable forest management practices.

With a longer seeding season than traditional tree-planting (which ranges from late spring to early summer), direct seeding can be done in early spring, through until the late fall, making it ideal for silvicultural operations planning. Stocking higher densities is not difficult and as such, makes it great for tree species that are susceptible to forest pests–with little additional cost for the supplier. Natural root development is promoted with direct seeding, giving a greater chance of healthy, regular root growth through its life.

Though trees planted through seeding begin life on the block a year behind nursery-grown seedlings, they do not face the shock of planted trees when they are removed from the nursery, or the constrained root growth that plugs require. We are currently determining how these benefits affect direct-seeded trees on our experimental block.

The First In Western Canada

In 2011 we planted our first block with precision direct seeding. In conjunction with FPInnovations we have been keeping track of the trees. The trees planted through direct seeding remain a year behind after five years in the soil. However, with a better root system these trees look set to meet governmental deadlines for growth. Direct seeding is particularly well suited to areas which, due to disease or other factors, require overstocking to ensure enough trees reach maturity. With hand planting, over planting raises costs, but with direct seeding, the only extra cost is the extra amount of seed, with all other costs remaining the same.

In the right condition, direct seeding offers everything traditional hand planting does, but at half the cost, allowing, also, for more flexibility.

Read the FPInnovations report on Direct Seeding here.

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