Seed ball

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Seed ball

Seed balls, also known as "earth balls" or nendo dango (Japanese: 粘土 団子?), consist of a variety of different seeds rolled within a ball of clay, preferably volcanic pyroclastic red clay. Into this medium various additives may be included, such as humus or compost. These are placed around the seeds, at the center of the ball, to provide microbial inoculants. Cotton-fibres or liquefied paper are sometimes mixed into the clay in order to strengthen it, or liquefied paper mash coated on the outside to further protect the clay ball during sowing by throwing, or in particularly harsh habitats.

Development of technique[edit]

The technique for creating seed balls was rediscovered by Japanese natural farming pioneer Masanobu Fukuoka.[1] The technique was also used, for instance, in ancient Egypt to repair farms after the annual spring flooding of the Nile. In modern times, during the period of the Second World War, this Japanese government plant scientist working in a government lab, Fukuoka, who lived on the mountainous island of Shikoku, wanted to find a technique that would increase food production without taking away from the land already allocated for traditional rice production.[2][3] which thrived in the volcanic rich soils of Japan.


To make a seed ball, generally about 5 measures of red clay by volume are combined with one measure of seeds. The balls are formed between 10mm and 80mm (about 0.4 to 3.15 inches) in diameter.

Seed bombing[edit]

Seed bombing, or in some cases aerial reforestation,[4] is a technique of introducing vegetation to land by throwing or dropping seed balls. Often, seed bombing projects are done with arid or off-limits (for example, privately owned) land.

'The earliest records of aerial reforestation date back from 1930. In this period, planes were used to distribute seeds over certain inaccessible mountains in Honolulu after forest fires.[4]

In 1987, Lynn Garrison created the Haitian Aerial Reforestation Project (HARP) in which tons of seed would be scattered from specially modified aircraft. The seeds would be encapsulated in an absorbent material. This coating would contain fertilizer, insecticide/animal repellent and, perhaps a few vegetable seeds. Haiti has a bimodal rainy season, with precipitation in spring and fall. The seeds are moistened a few days before the drop, to start germination. Tons of seed can be scattered across areas in the mountains, inaccessible to hand-planting projects.

Another project idea was to use C-130 aircraft and altering them to drop biodegradable cones filled with fertilizer and saplings over hard-to-access areas.[5]

Seed bombing is also widely used in Africa; where they are put in barren or simply grassy areas. With technology expanding, the contents of a seed bomb are now placed in a biodegradable container and "bombed" grenade-style onto the land. As the sprout grows, the container biodegrades into the soil. The process is usually done as a large-scale project with hundreds dropped in a single area at any one time. Provided enough water, adequate sunlight, and low competition from existing flora and fauna, seed-bombed barren land could be host to new plants in as little as a month.

Seed balls have use in nearly any region where plants can grow: for reseeding ecosystems into areas of man-made deserts, avoiding seed eating insects and animals and protecting seeds until rains fall to soak the clay ball and stimulate the seeds. Seeds contained in such balls then germinate in ideal conditions for each climate/region.

Guerrilla gardening[edit]

The term "seed grenade" was first used by Liz Christy in 1973 when she started the "Green Guerrillas".[citation needed] The first seed grenades were made from balloons filled with tomato seeds, and fertilizer.[6] They were tossed over fences onto empty lots in New York City in order to make the neighborhoods look better. It was the start of the guerrilla gardening movement.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adler, Margot (April 15, 2009). "Environmentalists Adopt New Weapon: Seed Balls". NPR. Retrieved November 9, 2011. 
  2. ^ Fukuoka (福岡?), Masanobu (正信?) (1978 May) [1st publ. in Japanese 1975 Sept. 自然農法・わら一本の革命 (shizen nōhō・wara ippon no kakumei)], The One-Straw Revolution An Introduction to Natural Farming, translation: Chris Pearce, Tsune Kurosawa, and Larry Korn (ed.), Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press, ISBN 0878572201  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Fukuoka (福岡?), Masanobu (正信?) (1987 Dec.) [1st publ. in Japanese 1975 Dec. 自然農法 緑の哲学の理論と実践 (shizen nōhō midori no tetsugaku no riron to jissen); 1st Eng. tr. ed. 1985], The Natural Way of Farming The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy, translation: Frederic P Metreaud (rev. ed.), Tokyo: Japan Publications, ISBN 978-0-87040-613-3  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ a b Horton, Jennifer. "Could military strategy win the war on global warming?". How Stuff Works. Retrieved 2012-04-06. 
  5. ^ Brown, Paul (1999-09-02). "Aerial bombardment to reforest the earth". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-06-09. 
  6. ^ "How Guerrilla Gardening Works". How Stuff Works. Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  7. ^ Robinson, Joe (29 May 2008). "Guerrilla gardener movement takes root in L.A. area". L.A. Times. Retrieved 12 June 2014. 

Further Reading[edit]

  • Smith, K. (2007). The guerilla art kit. Princeton Architectural Press.
  • Huxta, B. (2009). Garden-variety graffiti. Organic gardening, 2009.

External links[edit]