Assessing the efficacy of artificial seed-coatings and microbial amendments for drone-facilitated revegetation
More than 52 million hectares of Australian land is considered degraded and, in recent years, pressures such as drought, land clearing, and bushfires have sharply increased. Currently, seed-based revegetation is often limited by low rates of seedling establishment. As such, there is a strong need for new, innovative, large-scale approaches to restoring diverse vegetation, often on difficult terrain. Considering this, AirSeed Technologies – a Sydney-based start-up company who use aerial drones in direct-seeding revegetation – are testing artificial seed-coatings (‘Seed Pods’) which incorporate microbial amendments with the aim of increasing seed emergence rates and plant growth. This thesis explores the efficacy of this technique using a manipulative glasshouse experiment with three treatments (bare-seeded; Seed Pods; Seed Pods + microbial amendment) for four native plant species. Plant growth data were analysed alongside soil nutrient concentrations and microbial community diversity quantifications. Seed Pods were shown to increase plant growth relative to bare-seeded treatments, however, the technique may not be suitable for small seeds or those requiring to be surface-sown. The microbial amendment did not result in further significant improvements in any measured aspect of plant growth. Ultimately, these results highlight exciting prospects for the application of drone-delivered artificial seed-coatings in facilitating efficient restoration.