The direct seeding technique is a method to recover native vegetation and bring several economic, social, and ecological benefits.
Environmental certification is key for rural producers who aim to expand the business to foreign markets. This is because one of the main criteria for certification is the creation of an ecological reserve of native vegetation inside the property premises.
By contacting the Xingu Seed Network, the rural producer receives advice from engineers specialized in ecological restoration through direct seeding. They will understand the producer’s needs and design a customized project for those needs and the biome. Following the planning, there is also a follow-up throughout all the steps towards restoration.
Hundreds of people who work in seed harvesting benefit directly through income generation, knowledge exchange, integration among peer groups, and forest conservation. It is also a way to promote job opportunities for women and traditional communities, such as Indigenous peoples, quilombolas, family farmers, and settlers.
In a process similar to the natural regeneration of forests in each of the biomes, the direct seeding method favors the growth of trees with well-developed roots, straight trunks, and greater resistance to extreme events (natural disasters).
Muvuca is a mixture of seeds of different species to be planted all at once. For centuries, farmers, Indigenous peoples, quilombolas, and traditional communities have been planting native species by direct seeding (a muvuca). There are countless benefits for the quality of the water, fauna, and flora, the climate, agricultural production, and our quality of life.
With the help of the guide below, we want to give you a hand to plant native ecosystems based on the example of a forest in restoration, with trees, shrubs, herbs, and vines.
Your project may need all of these actions or just a few. There is no single recipe. So, come up with your own way of doing direct seeding!
1.1 Seed Harvesting
Look for seeds that belong to the same vegetation type and region you want to plant, and do not use invasive species. If you need help understanding if they are native, look up a species identification guide, such as this one on plants of the Cerrado and Amazon. Store the seeds properly until the time for planting.
The seed mixture batch (muvuca), to make a forest, should have a minimum of species that live up to one year, shrubs and vines that survive up to three years, trees that endure up to 30 years, and centennial trees, all mixed in a proportion calculated to guarantee good soil coverage from the second month after planting.
After collecting native seeds and calculating the necessary amount of muvuca, you may still need seeds to make your forest. If this is your case, it is possible to buy native seeds of our flora from several Brazilian producers.
2.1 Mechanized or Manual
In steep ground or areas not accessible to tractors, the planting can be done manually in small pits. In flat areas, tractors and even airplanes can be used to plant and manage the muvuca.
Use a concrete mixer or throw the seeds on a tarp laid out on the ground and mix everything using a spade or hoe. Add sand or sifted soil in a similar weight as the seeds. This helps keep the seeds well mixed. Optionally, you can break dormancy and inoculate the seeds before mixing them into the muvuca.
The beginning of the wet season is the ideal time for seeding, so the plants can grow a lot in the first few months and will be better able to withstand the dry season. If the planting area is in a marsh or floodplain, start seeding when the soil dries out.
Depending on how the planting will be carried out, you should make two or more muvucas with seeds of different sizes or shapes. Separate large seeds from the small and winged ones, as the large seeds, can be buried up to 3-4 cm deep in the soil, while the small and winged seeds should stay near the surface.
3.1 Isolate the area
Talk to everyone involved, evaluate well, and isolate the area where you will plant from factors that could hinder the muvuca’s development.
Lowering the grass prior to tillage may be necessary. Managing the livestock can lower and weaken the grass and prevent it from producing seed, but it can also cause soil compaction and erosion. Gathering the grazed grass at the foot of the trees is labor-intensive, but it is a good strategy for controlling the grass in row crops, improving soil fertility and moisture.
One option to initially eliminate dominant plants, such as brachiaria and colonião, which hinder the initial development of muvuca, is to perform manual or chemical weeding techniques.
If you are going to burn, get permission from the competent agency, make a firebreak, call people to help, observe the best time and stay in place until the fire goes out. Another option to weaken weeds and other dominant plants is performing successive tractor harrowing during the drought season.
4.1 Mechanized broadcast seeding
For broadcast seeding with the help of a tractor, it is necessary to turn the soil over and make it well leveled previously. Take care not to cause erosion, and remember that about 30% of the soil’s organic matter is lost with each harrowing.
Broadcast seeding can be done manually or using fertilizer or lime spreading machines. Use your seed per m² calculation to regulate and calibrate the machine manually, achieving the planned seeding density for your planting.
After scattering the seeds, it is necessary to bury them between 1 and 4 cm deep and carry out another surface soil revolving. This can be done with a tractor, and a leveling harrow closed, a tire roller, or manually, with a rake.
Mechanized direct seeding in rows is indicated for non-compacted soils or where the rows have been previously subsoiled. Any grain planter can be used, and a large muvuca could be placed in the fertilizer box and another mixture of small seeds in the appropriate container.
After mechanized seeding, we can plant those seeds that do not fit in the machine or cannot be buried. Manual planting can also be performed in sloping areas, tree stump scattered terrain, swamps, and places not accessible to the tractor.
Evaluate if your planting requires any complementary action, such as weed control, ants, or filling the gaps enhancing soil densification. The best result is the sprouting of native plants that you did not plant! Grass (or other dominant plants) control, either mechanical or with specific products, is the leading management action needed to prepare the soil, and the shade of the growing muvuca has not been enough to control them.
There are specific products on the market, selective for narrow-leaved plants (monocotyledons). They can effectively eliminate the grass if applied up to 2 months after planting while the grass is still young. If not eliminated, apply again at the beginning of the next rainy season, but be aware that more applications in a row can also slow the growth of broad-leaved plants. Refer to your state’s legislation.
The regular spacing of the rows allows manual and mechanized management operations: we can weed between the rows, weed the rows, and accumulate the weeded grass at the foot of the little trees.
In this period, it is possible to harvest beans, corn, passion fruit, maxixe, pumpkin, watermelon, gourd, etc. Take the opportunity to prune bushes and vines that are too dense, increasing the natural daylight for the growing trees.
6.1 Gap thickening
The densification in the “gaps” that may have remained after the initial planting is done by direct manual planting, in small pits, or with seedlings.
It is already possible to harvest fruits such as cashew, murici, and Brazilian pepper, taking the opportunity to prune back old or too dense plants.
To control the grass in this phase, it is possible to manage light cattle (more or less one animal/hectare) in the area seeded with the muvuca, but only during the rainy season. It is necessary to monitor and take the cattle out as soon as the grass is down.
We can remove branches from the trees to increase the luminosity inside the forest and favor the growth of fruit trees and other species of interest.
From 7 years on, we can perform the first cuts of wood (logs) for firewood and fences and favor species with a longer cycle, greater value, and slower growth. For this purpose, it is mandatory to obtain authorization from a competent agency.
Some fruit trees can take up to 16 years to start fruiting. Medium cycle wood can be harvested after 15 years. Noble woods, between 25 and 60 years old. Always observe the natural regeneration in your forest and make sure that it renews itself throughout these cycles. Follow a sound management plan!
The Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) is a Brazilian non-profit civil society organization established in 1994. ISA proposes solutions to social and environmental issues in an integrated manner, focusing on the defense of social, collective, and diffuse goods and rights related to the environment, cultural heritage, and the rights of individuals and peoples.
The Xingu Seed Network Association (ARSX) is a non-governmental, non-profit association considered the most prominent native seed network in Brazil. Created in 2007, the initiative aims to value the peoples and communities that collect seeds for forest restoration in several territories in the watersheds of the Xingu, Araguaia, and Teles Pires rivers. Today, there are more than 500 seed collectors, 20 million trees planted, more than 6 thousand hectares of forests planted, and more than R$ 4.4 million passed on directly to the communities.
What has been managed for millennia by Indigenous peoples in opening their crops for subsistence purposes, the fire now rages in an uncontrolled way over the forests due to deforestation in the surroundings of the Xingu area and climate change. For those who dream of getting to know a small portion of the Amazon, “Fire in the Forest” presents the village of the Waurá people, in the Xingu Indigenous Park, Mato Grosso, Brazil, in 360° scenes from the perspective of the threat that hovers over all peoples: the uncontrolled fire.
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