Categories: Permaculture

With the United States and other countries caught in unprecedented never before seen droughts, and desertification of the world growing in tandem, this simple method for speeding re-vegetation at scale offers a lot of promise.

Imprinting roller

Imprinted soil

The barren, arid landscapes of the world are notoriously hard to revegetate. Indeed, the earth in these regions is usually very hard to describe as ‘soil’. As vegetation dies off, the soil gets exposed to intense heat and evaporation, and any seeds that are present, or applied, are then unable to get the moisture they need to germinate and survive. With plant roots, organic matter and microorganisms no longer present in the soil, it rapidly loses any of the structure it once possessed. Soil erosion from rain events and harsh winds then easily undermine nature’s attempts at natural, progressive restoration, by sending any accumulated soil particles elsewhere, or out into the ocean.

Human intervention has been, in many cases, the driving force in starting this destructive cycle, and, as evidenced by the rapid advancement of desertification worldwide, it’s also clear that it will only be through human intervention that we can reverse it. 

Before imprinting


1 year after

Dr. Robert Dixon has been experimenting and having great success with a simple way to fast-track the revegetation of barren lands since 1976 — with a technique called ‘imprinting’. Found in a forgotten Internet 1.0 styled corner of the interweb, and forwarded to me by Geoff Lawton, this method immediately struck a chord with my biologically minded self, as I’m sure it will for all of you soil afficionados.

Imprinting is a method for instantly adding what permaculturists call the ‘edge effect’ to soils, utilising a heavy and dimpled/wedged roller to ‘imprint’ soils with patterned depressions. The bottom of these depressions then become collection points for all the crucial elements needed for seed germination and soil building: seeds themselves, water, organic matter (including plant debris and animal manure) and wind-blown silt and clay particles.

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