CULTIVATING & PROPAGATING SEEDS FOR RAINFOREST REVEGETATION
16 AUGUST 2022
After planting 32,000 trees along riverbanks as part of a COVID economic boost program, Johnstone Region Landcare Group share insights into the long and involved process of collecting and cultivating seeds to continue planting forests for the future.
Fay Falco-Mammone from Johnstone Region Landcare Group explains that to rebuild a healthy and resilient forest, it’s critical to use species that would naturally occur in the area. “Getting viable seedlings is not as straightforward as picking up any old seed and throwing it into the ground. It’s important that the seeds are genetically diverse, for the new forest to be strong and robust,” she says.
“You need to know which species are where, which trees are healthy, and when they fruit. But it’s not something you can really go by textbook on because not every tree fruits every year either – so you need a lot of local knowledge and observation, which can take years to build up.”
Once the seeds are back in the nursery, Fay and her team begin the germination process. Some need peeling, scoring or soaking, and some need drying, while others can be put straight into a seed raising tray. Some seeds will germinate in weeks, others can take as long as 18 months.
From the seedling stage, the new plants get re-potted into greenhouse tube stock where they’ll stay for weeks to months, again depending on the species, and then ‘hardened’, which is the process of adjusting young plants gradually to the conditions they’ll be planted in.
Once the trees are in the ground, they need to be weeded and maintained until they are tall enough to make a canopy and look after themselves – which usually takes between two and three years.
INVESTING IN GREEN JOBS
Johnstone Landcare was one of the organisations that was able to create new ‘green jobs’ following the early stages of the COVID pandemic thanks to funding from the Queensland Government’s Reef Assist program. The program invested $6.3 million into environmental projects in the Wet Tropics, which helped boost the local economy and created 128 jobs. Projects were delivered by the Wet Tropics Management Authority, Terrain NRM, Douglas Shire Council and Jaragun Eco Services, to stabilise creekbanks with tree planting, propagate seedlings, shore up beach vegetation to prevent erosion and remove invasive weeds.
Fay has been able to employ a crew of 13, many of them young and indigenous people, who are now part of skilled team that plants trees, provides ongoing maintenance work and is now undertaking the propagation of another 20,000 native seeds.
“As well as providing meaningful employment and training opportunities, the program’s helping us to get a really good, biodiverse range of species available in the nursery. The long process involved in seed propagation means that demand can often outweigh supply when it comes to landcare projects,” says Fay.