The tree nursery, from existence to consciousness

I am the Viridis Terra Peru's plants consciousness, and I will tell you why I am here. I seek to answer the great philosophical question of all time, why do I exist? My answer, although ambitious, is true: to make a positive impact on this world. Through specific actions such as reforestation, restoration, rehabilitation, and conservation of degraded areas, both local communities and investors dedicated to raising funds for the benefit of the planet are working together to raise my consciousness.

Today I speak to you from the forest nursery of the Technological Institute of Higher Education Public (IESTP) Switzerland, located in Pucallpa. The recovery of this nursery was possible thanks to an agreement between Viridis Terra Peru and IESTP Switzerland in August of this year (2021).

However, even before the plant germination step, the field team faced the arduous task of finding a viable solution to achieve the goal of producing 60,000 seedlings before the end of the year. No time to waste; we needed a team with a lot of skills! The head of the current nursery, the young forest engineer Napoleón Flores, summoned his best allies to bring the plant production center to life.A person standing in a field of plants

"I started looking for a team. First, I had to find a good forestry technician in nurseries: Hacela Pérez. Then, I had the titanic task of looking for nurseries. We visited several, and the only one that met the primary infrastructure conditions was this one [at IESTP Switzerland]. This belonged to an old project, Fondebosque (Fondo de Promoción del Desarrollo Forestal)," says Napoleón Flores.

The truth is that the forest nursery had the conditions to produce plants on a large scale. The agreement between Viridis Terra Peru and the institute's director, Dr. Jorge Antonio Córdova Correa, was signed quickly. In this way, Viridis Terra Perú is giving value to an old investment of the State, taking back what it was created for and in an inclusive way for the students. Those students who will learn about nursery technology will enter the professional market better prepared in the future.

The next task was the search for seeds. "There was not much time because one of the bottlenecks in production is the availability of seeds, which depends on the phenological cycle of the trees. We knew well that we were in shihuahuaco production, so we made a calendar to reach the goals. This is one of the main limitations when producing native species," says Napoleón Flores.

In addition, to assemble the team on such a short delay, it was essential to call on experienced nursery staff with knowledge of the appropriate technology. The nursery was built in less than a week by four people. Today there are seven.

The space of peace and harmony of which I speak today seemed abandoned. There was grass and waste there, without a hydraulic motor to irrigate.

Hacela Pérez is the technician in charge —she is the mother of the plants, the best technician in the region—, says Napoleon.

I, the consciousness of the plants, am a witness of Hacela's love for her daughters. She even chants a Homa Therapy mantra to them in Sanskrit. Hacela Pérez worked on a project where they chanted to the plants three times a day to raise their vibration. "It was true. Because when we chanted, our plants grew faster and more beautifully. And I remember that and go around the nursery singing my song," Hacela smiles.

For there to be a consciousness, there must be existence. So things got underway. The forest nursery is divided into three zones: planting, growth and hardiness.

The substrate is prepared with inputs from the region to plant native species like shihuahuaco, chuncho pine, cedar, mahogany, marupa and capirona. The formula contains decomposed sawdust, semi-carbonized rice husks, chicken manure from the sheds, and imported coconut fibre. Entirely organic, this formula provides a high-quality fertilizer.

It is also important to select seeds from plus trees, to ensure quality, sound production, and planting. In this nursery, the seeds come from different origins in the jungle "to guarantee genetic enrichment because Viridis Terra also contemplates the genetic improvement of our native species. This way, later, we will have our seed trees," says Napoleon.

Some seeds, such as those of the shihuahuaco tree, must be split to see if they germinate inside. When it is the case, they are placed in seedbeds to continue the germination process. When the plants begin to grow, the team moves them to tubes, where they will spend a week to ten days to develop strong roots.

On the other hand, chuncho pine seed is direct sowing. Pre-germination is achieved by making an incision at one end of the grain and wetting it for a few days, technically known as 'scarification.' Once the germ emerges, it is sorted into the tubes.

How were these native species chosen? "Everything has been discussed with the farmers. We do not impose the species. After evaluating the soils, we provide the technical part to choose the species, and they decide which ones to cultivate," says Napoleón Flores. The interests of the future partners and the condition of the areas to be restored are taken into account. We also consider the commercial aspects to provide the landowners with options for selling their commodities in the short, medium and long term.

Once the seedlings are rooted, we take them to their first growth area for a month. "We manage the netting because we cannot leave the plants in direct sunlight; otherwise, they will die. We are graduating the hours when they are covered. Then we uncover them completely so they can withstand the sun and rain," says Hacela Pérez.

This space is now also used by students of IESTP Switzerland who are interested in learning these techniques. They find, for example, that the methods of planting in tubes are better than those they favoured, using bags, and with which the roots get tangled. Or that the sprinklers distribute water much better than the hoses they traditionally used.

In the tunnels covered with red netting, when the plants reach a height of 10 to 15 centimetres, they are 'thinned'. In other words, the plants are selected by size to achieve even growth, and the larger ones are taken to another tunnel with greater exposure to the sun. This step is necessary so that the water from the sprinklers enters well into each tube.

As you can see, to give life to the 60,000 plants in this nursery, composed mainly of 30,000 shihuahuaco and 20,000 chuncho pine seedlings, my hard-working nursery workers improved the processes to make them efficient and productive. Hacela Pérez remembers that when she was working with bags, the planting and growth of the seedlings took longer. She knows that using trays and tubes makes everything more practical, and she can significantly increase the number of crops.

Finally, the seedlings are transferred to the hardiness area, on metal tables where the team performs a tree control. They will spend approximately one month in harsher conditions to adapt as closely as possible to the reality of the field. As Napoleón points out, "here the plants receive direct solar radiation, without netting. We control the plant's water intake. We try to stress them hydraulically because they will not have someone to water them constantly in the field".

The rainy season of the Amazon rainforest is approaching, and it will be time to send the best seedlings to the farms of Nueva Palestina and San Alejandro, department of Ucayali, for the farming partners of Viridis Terra Peru. In case some plants do not resist the change of environment, my nurserymen have a reserve ready!

To be continued.

Florence Couillaud.