Eco news: French town paints grass green, €10bn needed for forests

Why parched grass in the south of France has been painted and the Minister of Agriculture has been called ‘stubborn’

Mandelieu-la-Napoule (Alpes-Maritimes) is spraying dry grass with organic, algae-based green colourant

Minister of Agriculture ‘stubborn’ over forest regeneration

France’s Ministry of Agriculture says that between 8 and 10 billion euros worth of investment is required to replenish the country’s forests over the next decade.

Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau spoke of a “vast intervention programme covering more than a million hectares” with costs to be shared between private owners who hold 75% of forests, and the state as a report, called Objectif forêt (Objective Forest), was launched.

He said the focus needs to be on planting trees, recruiting manpower and better plot-management to help French forests adapt to climate change.

In October 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to plant a billion trees in France within ten years.

Read more: MAP: Where are France’s most and least densely forested departments?

However, environmental associations argue that this is not enough, and that changes need to be made within the timber industry, such as diversifying tree species and reducing the use of pesticides by farmers.

“Part of what is recommended in this report is not acceptable,” Sylvain Angerand, forestry engineer and campaign coordinator for the Canopée association, told francetvinfos.

Mr Angerand, who worked with France Nature Environnement and the WWF on the report, criticised “the stubbornness of the Minister of Agriculture”, who favours “large-scale clear-cutting, followed by planting... if you cut down the forest all at once, you’re going to have a rise in temperature” and “you’re accelerating climate change”, he said.

He recommends “planting trees in small clearings.”

“In forestry, tree planting is just one element in a forester’s technical palette. There are operations that are far less onerous for the forest, and which can be effective, such as thinning, i.e. cutting back just a few trees. The two parameters in the forest are temperature and drought.

“If you clear the forest all at once, the temperature will rise. In summer, when you go for a walk, it’s cooler inside the forest than outside. We recommend planting trees in small clearings.

“For the moment, it’s just a report, not produced by the government but by a working group, which has been submitted to the Minister of Agriculture and which should then come up with a plan. Unfortunately, this report misses the point,” he added..

Read more: Vandals ‘uproot more than 7,000 apple trees’ in southern France

Town paints parched lawns green

Authorities in Mandelieu-la-Napoule (Alpes-Maritimes) have engaged a local start-up company to spray some of the town’s sun-frazzled grassed areas using 100% organic, algae-based green colourant.

The colourant is “harmless to the environment and humans,” said the mayor, Sébastien Leroy, who added that the colouring sprayed on the grass contains nutrients to help the grass resist drought.

Read more: French town’s drought ‘solution’: painting its dried-out grass green!

“The colouring process restores a natural, uniform colour to a yellowed lawn”, he told francetvinfos. The goal is to maintain a pleasant living environment for local residents and tourists, while saving precious water resources by avoiding watering.

“It’s quite a virtuous process. This way, we don’t have to remove green spaces and replace them with dry plants or mineral areas,” he said.

The colouring technique was developed by Bioassays, a Mandelieu-la-Napoule-based company that develops environmentally-friendly ‘biocontrol’ solutions for weed control, soil nutrition and pest control in crops.

They claim “it is a very easy-to-use technique that revives the lawn in just a few seconds. The colouring lasts until the grass grows back, as its root system is still alive.”

11 litres are needed to cover 2,000m2, and the process costs between 30 and 50 centimes per square metre repainted, said the mairie.

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