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This Affordable Biodegradable Paper Donut Could Help Reforest the Planet

John Converse Townsend - coExist
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March 10, 2017
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We are Land Life Company (Land Life Company)

Environmental degradation is one of the "greatest environmental challenges of our time," according to the United Nations. Often caused by human industry and agriculture, environmental degradation is when lush land turns to desert. A total of 2 billion hectares of the earth's land is degraded, which is an area larger than all of South America.

The most straightforward solution to degraded land is reforestation, but when soil is dry and crusty, the survival rate for seedlings is dismal. A biodegradable cardboard donut, developed by the Amsterdam-based Land Life Company and known as the Cocoon, is changing that.

The results are pretty incredible, and it couldn’t be any easier to use. All you have to do is set it up, plant a seedling, walk away, and a tree will grow.

When using the Cocoon, the first step is to dig a shallow pit. The second step is to drop a seedling into the pit and surround it with the pound-cake-pan-shaped Cocoon, which is made from recycled paper pulp. The Cocoon is then filled with water and covered with a lid to prevent evaporation. Wicks inside the device transport water from the reservoir to the seedling’s roots. The drip system, Jongejan says, encourages roots to grow deep and wide, helping them tap into sub-surface soil moisture. In some situations, mycorrhizal fungi, which are present in 90% of natural forests, are also added to the soil to help the seedling better absorb moisture and nutrients. The final step is to slide a cylindrical "shelter" over the Cocoon’s opening, which protects the growing seedling from excessive sun exposure, winds, and small critters.

In arid areas, the survival rate for Cocoon-planted seedlings ranges from 80% and 95%, which is better than the 10% rate typical for manually planted seedlings. And while it’s about $10 more expensive per tree planted to use the Cocoon, the water savings justify the additional up-front cost.

"You’re looking at 400 gallons of water for every single tree, versus the 10 gallons we use for the Cocoon," Jongejan says. "Cost-wise, that’s $60 to $90 for a drip-irrigated tree and $10 to $12 for a Cocoon tree. Depending on cost of seedling and where you’re planting, labor and transportation costs could be higher or lower," she adds.

Read the rest at coExist

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