Biodegradable ammunition? Firing seeds?

I’m somewhat taken aback by the US military’s latest request for proposals.

The U.S. military on Tuesday began soliciting bids from companies interested in developing biodegradable ammunition carrying projectiles — as well as seeds that eventually sprout into plants.

. . .

The type of projectiles are not rifle rounds, but rather larger munitions including low-velocity 40mm grenades; 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars; shoulder launched munitions; 120mm tank rounds; and 155mm artillery rounds, the notice states.

“The projectiles, and in some circumstances the cartridge cases and sabot petals, are either left on the ground surface or several feet underground at the proving ground or tactical range,” it states. “Components of current training rounds require hundreds of years or more to biodegrade.”

The proposed solution, then, is to develop a biodegradable material to replace the current training rounds — and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already conducted research that shows bioengineered seeds can be embedded into biodegradable composites, according to the announcement.

This effort “will make use of seeds to grow environmentally friendly plants that remove soil contaminants and consume the biodegradable components developed under this project,” it states. “Animals should be able to consume the plants without any ill effects.”

There’s more at the link.

This raises all sorts of issues, that should occupy military experts in various fields (you should pardon the expression) for years to come.  For example:

  • I’m familiar with the British slang expression, used when one has an accident or suffers injury, that one has ‘come a cropper’.  Does that apply if hit by ammunition that produces crops?
  • Surely being hit by a shell filled with seeds constitutes biological warfare?  One would think it could be described as an im-plant . . .
  • Will the seeds be regionally appropriate?  For example, would a shell fired into the Alaskan tundra be considered effective if it contains seeds more suited to the arid semi-desert environment of New Mexico or Arizona?  How will users be able to tell?
  • What if a shell strays into farmland, so that the poor farmer suddenly finds (say) a plot of prickly pear growing in the middle of his cornfield?  Try explaining that to crop insurers!

The possibilities are endless . . .



  1. From a chemical perspective, options exist for creating bio-degradable polymers with the right mechanical properties for munitions. The problem is cost and priorities. How much more are we willing to spend on training rounds that would be better spent on more training? Why does it need to be bio-degradable? Do military weapons ranges have any intention of being re-zoned sometime in the future. Exactly, what level of bio-degradability are they looking for here? Does the casing need to disappear from the environment in a year? 5 years? A decade? Specifics matter when it comes to materials.

    Bio-degradable plastic is usually a solution in search of a problem. The unspoken problem is that people simply don't want to look at waste.

  2. Talk about sowing some really wild oats! Will they need to restrict training times based on the season and the phase of the moon?

    It does make me think, though … remembering the old Disney movie, Sleeping Beauty, can we genetically engineer instant-growing briars for battlefield denial purposes?

  3. Excuse my Klatchian, but… What Ever Fucking For? Walk around Europe. The timescale is not the same, but you can walk your own Civil War battle sites. Notice any lack of green?

    This place here is the range that separates northbound rivers from southborn for most of Spain. During the Civil War [our last one, I mean: 1936-39], the southern part was shelled exhaustively. If you trek there you keep seeing healthy, non-trivial, trees (beech) growing up from holes, not a really old one in sight. Those holes spread like pockmark. The northern side is equally full of trees (same kind) you can't surround with a couple adults, arms spread wide.

    So, yes, shelled. It wasn't planted back, not by a long stretch. And yet…

    Take care.

  4. "•Will the seeds be regionally appropriate?"

    Invasive species introduced in the wrong fragile environment?
    That will earn someone a quick trip to the Hague as a war criminal.

    Best to go with a round that drops unicorn farts and rainbows as a byproduct. If I can get a grant for a little over $50 million I could get started on next week.


  5. What Gerry said. I can just hear it now, "No, stop, don't shoot, don't shoot! You only have fescue loads and this district requires Spartina species rounds!"


  6. Having just read John Ringo's "The Last Centurion", with it's descriptions of attempting to farm after the beginning of an ice age with incompetent farm management and aid from the military, it occurs to me that perhaps somebody in the military has taken the problem to heart and is attempting to get a jump on the problem.

  7. What about rounds that would be fired in Europe. My understanding is they are not fans of GMO seeds…wouldn't bio-engineered seeds qualify as GMO? I could foresee lots of grief and aggravation as a result of this crazy scenario .
    Is this real or more of the "fake news" that seems to be everywhere these days.

  8. An inevitable result: the "Flower Power Drive-By", featuring a VW van as a get-away vehicle.

    Peace through superior Flower Power! 🙂

  9. It actually may not be such a bad idea. The proposal was for training ammunition including grenades, tank and artillery shells. Assuming that ballistic performance can be matched for training needs, future use of the land in question might well be more flexible if the debris from training is non-toxic.

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