Croatians use drones to spray chilli and acorns

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In Croatia, remotely piloted aircraft are being used to replant vegetation destroyed by summer forest fires. Acorns are being turned into oak trees and chillies are used to treat wild boars.

The initiative to use drones to replant hard-to-reach forests damaged by forest fires in Croatia is being promoted internationally. The method used by Magic Forest, the company running the project, is not exactly new, but the Croatian company is dispersing seeds in golf-ball-sized ‘bombs’ larger than those seen elsewhere, releasing various ingredients to create a micro-environment conducive to plant rooting.

In addition to the acorns, sand, grass, clay and even chillies are added to the containers or humus balls. The latter is important because it prevents wild animals, such as wild boar in the case of oak, from immediately eating the freshly scattered, germinating seeds. As reports show, summer forest fires in Croatia often break out in areas that are difficult to reach on foot, so it is a good idea to try to reforest from the air.

Last week’s Reuters report showed the work underway in the southern municipality of Promina. The news agency quoted the mayor of the village as saying that the innovative method was chosen because there had been many forest fires in the area and afterwards little else had grown on the dead forest except low shrubs. The reinforcement venture itself has been in the works for more than two years, and tests have reportedly shown that more than 40 per cent of the seeds dispersed have taken root.

The technology is already in place

According to the expert who manages the drone flights, they can cover about 10 hectares in eight hours using four to five drones. The ultimate idea would be to replant all the areas with trees native to the area, and although the project has so far only used the harvest of various oak species, the Magic Forest process could work with any other tree. So much so that the company is also in talks with Ukraine, Bosnia, Montenegro, Austria and California to introduce the technology next year.

The Croatian developers also want to participate in an EU initiative to plant no less than 3 billion trees by 2030 to combat the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss. Almost half of Croatia’s total land area is covered by forests, but the government’s aim is to exceed 50 per cent by the 2030 deadline.

Drones have been used repeatedly in recent years to afforest large areas of land. This also involves the spraying of biodegradable capsules containing nutrients, water and pesticides alongside germinated seeds. As then and now, such programmes do not necessarily face technological obstacles: the operation of drones must already comply with local regulations everywhere, but operators who may be directly responsible for the destruction of native vegetation are not necessarily obliged to pay clear and proportionate compensation.

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