Motivation for the development of the OmniVerdi technologies
To establish a tree or shrub under (sub)tropical dry conditions and on degraded compacted land is currently still a huge challenge. Especially if it needs to be cheaper then 1USD/tree, all costs included, which is the feasibility limit for most projects.
A mayor percentage of global forest planting, be it for biomass production or natural forest restoration, will need to be done in seasonal dry (sub)tropical regions and within these regions it will remain mostly restricted to land that is not suitable for annual-crop mechanized agriculture due to too degraded soils, too many rocks in the soil or on slopes.
Most tree (re)planting initiatives done over the past decades in tropical dry regions loose up to 95% of all planted seedlings in the first months, mainly due to lack of water, especially in the upper soil zones in which the seedlings are planted out and herein need to establish themselves. Only with very expensive maintenance, mainly frequent watering, some trees manage to survive, but at prohibitive too high costs. This kind of maintenance is not replicable on large scale, nor feasible for most projects, nor would the needed water be available, etc.
An affordable low-tech solution needed to be developed to establish trees and shrubs under (sub)tropical dry conditions, and certainly eliminating the need of watering after planting. Some technologies are currently available, like TerraCottem, WaterBoxx/GrowBoxx (Groasis) and Waterdisxx (Roel Verhagen), all around for more than a decade. Recently many hybrids popped up based on these existing technologies, but all these solutions are far too expensive, even for small scale projects. Only expensive field tests can afford these. So, more R&D was needed.
Out of almost 2 decades of experience came the OmniVerdi, latin for “becoming green in all places”. Firstly, it was only the device to aid seedlings planted in the field to survive and develop better, now renamed as OmniVerdi Omega (1st version, 2013). Over the years many versions followed with improvements and changes in approach to address the main problems.
Inspiration for improvements
After some field experience with restoration and looking into all aspects something interesting stood out; re-sprout management. After the forest is cut down, burned and turned into pasture or smallholder’s cropland many stumps and root fragments still remain alive for many years and even decades. The re-sprout is eaten or cut down repeatedly and eventually the reserves in the roots get exhausted. But if restoration starts before most of these stumps and roots perish away then these are an excellent starting point to restore the forest, alongside some extra seedling planting to complete and speed up the natural regeneration process.
The root fragments that re-sprout mostly don’t have anymore any aerial stem part and generate new re-sprouting in different ways. They pop up out of barren compacted degraded soils, and without any aid of devices like Omniverdi Omega, Waterboxx, Waterdisxx or similar they grow out pretty well vigorous and fast, even in very dry hot conditions.
So, the approach became to mimic these root fragments! Enabled by the production of seedlings with very long tap roots and many secondary roots, for which I created the OmniVerdi Riza.
The idea of seedlings with very long roots is old; early records go back to the 90thies, but most of the attempts to produce and plant them were abandoned due to too high costs and the difficulty to take these root clumps out of the long containers to plant them out in the field. My idea to insert a degradable bag into the long containers changed that all; as much cheaper containers can be used now and taking the seedling out of the container is very easy. Then I tried to eliminate the still expensive long containers by hanging the seedling bags. But for easier nursery construction and seedling logistics I developed the tile version of the Sigma nursery system.
And of course, to plant such seedings, a new digging tool was required. For sandy and loamy soils with not too much rocks I already developed the low-tech cheap OmniVerdi Skavo, tested and approved. For stony soils on the other hand… I am still working on that.