The TerraDerm process will mass produce low-cost seed pellets that contain all the needed microorganisms along with nutrients and agents needed for germination.
Over time, the increasing colony of microorganisms and secondary growth help the soil regain its primordial fertility, stability and greenhouse gas absorption capability.
Ambient water splits and melts pellet releasing agents and binding soil grains
Cyanobacteria pioneer the way for algae, fungi, lichens and vascular seed germination
Photo shows results of inoculating a desert soil in lab conditions with an experimental seed of TerraDerm.
Restoring Soils on a Global Scale
TerraDerm is a dry granulate made from indigenous strains of desert algae.
Combined with nutrients and germination agents, each poppy seed sized grain of TerraDerm will begin to stabilize and fertilize with each occurrence of ambient moisture.
Considerable background work exists, yet the challenges of creating the product, distribution, ensuring its viability on the ground, measuring the results and financing the operations will require the coordinated effort of many disciplines.
Biological soil crust (BSC) is a living skin of soil microorganisms found across arid lands planet-wide. TerraDerm is being developed to help restore this skin toward the health it had before anthropological influences. Only a few millimeters thick, BSC is comprised of sand particles bound together by strands of drought tolerant blue - green algae called cyanobacteria and the glue like polysaccharide sugar sheaths they leave behind. Using photosynthesis, these special cyanobacteria and their cohorts stabilize soil from wind erosion and fertilize it using carbon and nitrogen drawn directly from the atmosphere. The sticky sheath helps pull nutrients from the soil grains and the roughened soil surface helps trap additional nutrients transported by dust. The pioneering actions of BSC can make it possible for grasses and shrubs to take hold when enough water is available. The speed of regeneration is governed by the receptivity of the site, the amount of precipitation or dew events and the stability of the site in the months or years before establishment. Some growth can take place in days or weeks given enough moisture however maximum carbon drawdown or soil productivity may take a decade to establish. Alternatively, the lack or destruction of BSC due to unsustainable agriculture, herding, exploitation and climate change can trigger potentially unrecoverable desertification. TerraDerm can help accelerate the recovery of soil and regions before that happens.