Pelleting an Ecosystem, not just seeds: The next step for native seed restoration
In ecosystems where the severity of disturbance precludes autogenic recovery, targeting seeding with a diverse mix of native species is the only means of restoring ecosystem. But targeted seeding isn’t only enough to achieve an ideal restored ecosystem as, effective ecological restoration requires the return of not only plant biodiversity, but also ecosystem function, and both of these factors are reliant upon a functioning soil microbiome. Seed pelleting is one such technology that can provide a one stop solution to the seed based restoration industry through the concept of Multi-Seed Pelleting. PhD candidate Khiraj Bhalsing is working on developing an efficient native seed delivering technology which will allow the incorporation of not just seeds but also germination and plant growth enhancers, stress limiting compounds and anti-predation compounds while providing a means for standardizing seed shape and size for the highly variable native seed batches.
A lot of research has been focused to understand the key steps or process essential for successful re-establishment of native species. Some of the key steps in this re-establishment process are seed germination, seedling emergence and seedling establishment as they are the most basic processes involved in early plant development and without it no regeneration is possible. Seed enhancement techniques (SETs) could be a valuable asset not only in improving the available native seed quality but also to help boost early stage development of seedlings despite the limiting and harsh environments encountered in arid landscapes. One of the biggest advantage of using SETs in ecology restoration activity is the physical modification of native seeds which will ease their sowing process via mechanised drill sowing. Also, addition of specific macro-nutrients and growth promotors which are site and seed specific will help in maximising the chances of seedling.
Key objectives of the PhD project:
1. Researching and developing a single seed pelleting protocol for native Australian species (important for restoration industry) to assist precision sowing using seed drills.
2. Testing the using of growth promotors, microbes, fungicides and micro-nutrients in single seed pellets.
3. Researching and developing a Multi-Seed Pelleting protocol for native small seeded seeds of arid mid-western region of Western Australia.
The significance of this study lies in the novelty of researching the concept of combining different seed enhancement techniques in native Australian seeds to provide a one-step solution to the seed based restoration industry which can deliver not just seeds but an entire ecosystem. Combining SETs like pelleting and priming into one product form will help enhance the value of every single native seed used for restoration and thus reduce its wastage. Also developing primed multi seed pellets with biologicals/additives will help in precision sowing of seeds, enhanced germination rate, early establishment of seedlings, facilitation through cluster growth and initial protection to seedling via biologicals/additives.