How does MORFO select and collect species for its reforestation projects?

Image source: KÖM/MORFO
March 30, 2023

Our MORFO solution is a multi-step reforestation process, focusing primarily on tropical and subtropical regions. Planting is done by drones that disperse capsules containing seeds. These capsules contain all the biological and nutritive elements necessary to regenerate the eco-system in the long term.

In this article, we tell you more about the seeds that our capsules contain. Note that these capsules are not only composed of seeds, you will also find substrate, microorganisms promoting the development of plants and amendments, all aimed at promoting the growth and survival of the seed.

To find out more about our capsules, visit our article "Capsules and coatings: ensuring high survival rates during a drone reforestation project."

An evolving catalog of 300 species selected according to reforestation projects

Our catalog contains over 300 species that have been or are currently being studied. For a species to be selected for the MORFO method, it must meet at least 13 criteria, some of which are mandatory, others optional. These criteria are taken into account according to the characteristics of the project, such as range, growth rate, heliophilicity, nodulation, carbon storage capacity, phytoextraction and decompaction.

Here is an overview of the mandatory criteria:

  • Be local species

All MORFO reforestation projects are carried out with local species to avoid introducing potentially invasive exotic species. However, MORFO may, on a case by case basis, plant a strategic exotic species to address a specific issue. In this case, MORFO commits to justify its choice with an explanatory document.

  • Be a good-sized seed

Today, our seeds never exceed 10 mm, as each capsule contains 2 to 3 seeds and measures 16 mm. This size will increase in the future, as we aim to integrate larger seeds in a few months' time.

  • Being an orthodox seed

Only orthodox seeds are compatible with the MORFO method in terms of storage and dormancy breaking.

  • Provide strong resistance to water stress

MORFO only plants species with high water stress resistance to maximize their resistance to climate change.

  • Ensuring genetic diversity

In order to maximize the resilience of MORFO forests, seeds of the identified species should be collected from different populations to increase resilience to different threats.

  • Be part of a large global stock

MORFO selects species with abundant and easily accessible seed production so as not to endanger the sustainability of the species. However, if some rare species can be easily supplied, MORFO can plant some of these species (on the IUCN Red List for example) in order to participate in their preservation.

Our seed selection is the result of daily R&D work carried out with our partners

MORFO continuously carries out experiments and analyses in different laboratories to broaden our knowledge of microbiology, agronomy, botany and forestry. This R&D work is an extremely important aspect of our mission, as it allows us to optimize all aspects of our technology, starting with the quality and selection of our seeds.

We work with laboratories in France and Brazil. For example, in France, we have already launched two research programs with the IRD. We signed a first research collaboration in May 2021 with IRD, which ended in December 2022. This collaboration demonstrated the feasibility and scientific validity of our company's MORFO seed encapsulation process on tropical, temperate, and Sahelian species, as well as the results of this process on diverse and large-scale terrains.

The partnership with IRD is an example of working together to improve plantings and survival rates in the different biomes we work on. But it is not the only one. In Brazil, for example, we will start joint research with EMBRAPA and UFSCAR, a public research university.

To learn more about our work with laboratories, read our article "How and why we work with specialized laboratories".

Species collected by local communities to meet the needs of the eco-system

It is essential for us to work with local actors to prepare the seeds, for several reasons.

First of all, there is now evidence that a reforestation project is more likely to succeed if local communities benefit economically from the project. In a recent study published in BioScience by Sara Löfqvist and colleagues at ETH Zurich, it was revealed that the effectiveness of ecosystem restoration projects can be improved by taking social and equity issues into account. Our goal is to secure seeds at least one year in advance by financing seed collector networks. At the moment, this goal is not always met simply because we have many requests for reforestation that must be completed within a short time frame. It should be noted that not only do we fund the collectors, but we also train them free of charge on seed preparation and storage, a skill they can then use in future contracts with other actors or organizations.

Working with local actors also allows us to better understand the particularities of the area and to improve the quality of future reforestation. Despite all the data we have and the precision of our R&D, it is always useful to have the opinion of local experts to eventually change the choice of seeds to be replanted in a particular area. Thus, during the project carried out with the ITPA organization in the north of Rio de Janeiro, we were able to discuss with the organization's experts before the planting project was carried out.

Collecting the seeds on site allows to respect all the sanitary rules in force by avoiding the introduction of diseases or external parasites.

It should be noted, if it is necessary to do so, that working locally also allows the development of professional networks, the training of dozens of people in our trades (drone piloting, selection and preparation of seeds...) and to generate additional income.

Scientific Director (CSO)
Emira Cherif
- Paris, France
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