Q: What is a SeedBall?
A: A Seed Ball is simply that - a seed inside of a ball of charcoal dust mixed with some nutritious binders. We are focusing on helping reduce the costs of planting various useful indigenous plant species (mostly trees!) in Kenya. The biochar coating of the ball helps protect the seed within from predators such as birds, rodents and insects and extremes of temperature until the rains arrive! Once soaked, the seedball will help retain and prolong a moist environment around the seed to encourage germination.
Q: What is Biochar?
A: Biochar is charcoal dust and we collect all of ours as part of a clean up program of roadside urban vendors waste from within the city of Nairobi. Chardust Ltd. www.chardust.com piloted this technology and has been recycling this charcoal waste into fuel briquettes for years. In fact we have 'carbon dated' some of these vendors sites at over 80 years old- evidenced by the 1930's East African coins we have sieved out of the compacted biochar heaps. Biochar has some unique soil improvement properties due, like activated charcoal, to it's immense surface area and absorptive properties. It's about the best thing we can wrap around a seed to give it a boost during germination.
Q: Are SeedBalls pre-treated?
A: Biochar seedballs contain seeds that have not been pre-treated or manipulated in any way. We purchase our seeds from the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and the seeds undergo grading and germination tests conducted by KEFRI and each batch can be traced back to its original seed orchard in Kenya. Otherwise the seeds within are still in their natural state.
Q: When is the best time to distribute SeedBalls?
A: Anytime is fine, the seeds in the biochar balls will patiently wait until conditions are right. Access to many areas is easiest at the end of the driest season, and livestock densities are usually lowest after drought.
Q: Are SeedBalls available for purchase all year round?
A: Depending on seed availability and order size we will usually have some in stock. We only produce SeedBalls when the weather is fair as we need to dry them fast to avoid premature germination. Ideally we would like to stock up to have good supplies through the wet seasons but it's difficult to predict demand for bulk (over 500kg) orders.
Q: How long will it take before I see the SeedBalls germinating?
A: This depends totally on the species, with some rapid responders like domboya germinating quickly in response to rain, and others like the acacias exhibiting wide variation in seed 'dormancy'.... emerging months to years after distribution in the wild. Scientific studies have observed dormancy periods of over 20 years for the Yellow Fever tree! For Acacias we seed in 'Time And Space'...
Q: How many SeedBalls should be spread over what area?
A: Again this depends on the tree type and what type of forest you want. Some like to grow close together, others prefer wide spaces. For the arid acacia lands we suggest 25kg (10 to 11 thousand SeedBalls) per 1 km square, focusing on areas that appear hospitable (eg, avoid bare rock and swamps etc.). Please contact us for more site specific advice.
Q: There is livestock and/or wildlife in the area I wish to re-seed with trees. Won't these animals eat the seedlings?
A: They might eat a few if they are discovered at an early and vulnerable stage, but nature provides built-in defence mechanisms, and as germination triggered by good rains can lead to quick growth and the development of thorns etc. while there is plenty of tall grass to hide in, many of the seedlings will survive.
Q:Do the seed balls need to be broken up?
A: No! The seed balls should be left intact. Once water has permeated the clay, the seeds will slowly begin to germinate inside the ball. Scattered seed balls should not be picked up once it's rained, as this could damage any growing roots.
Q:Why aren't my seed balls sprouting?
A:Seedballs are an easy way of gardening because mother nature takes over once you scatter them. The seeds won't begin to germinate until there's been sufficient rain for that particular species and it can sometimes take a while for your seeds to begin sprouting. So patience is important! You will eventually see things starting to happen when the conditions are right - growing trees is a long-term forward thinking project.
Q:How many seeds per seedball?
A: It depends on the species of tree seed (large seeds vs. small seeds) but we average out at more than 120% seeds in each batch of seedballs.
Q:Where are they made?