The effects of a wildfire can be devastating to communities, local economies, and the environment. While the affected communities are usually quick to begin the re-building process, it can take nature quite a bit longer to recover.
There are a number of obstacles facing plant re-establishment after a wildfire. One of the biggest problems is the spread of water repellency. Fires can expand zones of water repellency in soils, hindering the germination and growth of seeds sown to produce new plant cover.
Matthew D. Madsen of the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) found that coating seeds with a soil surfactant can substantially improve reseeding success after wildfires. Aquatrols signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the ARS last fall.
During Madsen’s research, bunchgrass seeds were coated with a blend of alkylpolyglycoside and ethylene oxide/propylene oxide block copolymer. Both coated and non-coated seeds were sown at two separate fire locations. Two years later, bunchgrass density and soil cover was nearly twice as high for the coated seeds.
Laboratory experiments show that precipitation allows surfactants to transfer from the seed coating to the direct environment in which the seeds are growing. This creates more favorable conditions for seed germination and plant growth.
Madsen and his team are hopeful that the seed coating technology may soon transform the way rangeland is restored. You can access Madsen’s research by clicking here.
Source: Adjuvant Newsletter
Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region
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