Tag Archives: pollination

Natural orchards improve bee diversity and improve apple production

Apple orchards surrounded by agricultural lands are visited by a less diverse collection of bee species than orchards surrounded by natural habitats, according to a new study led by Cornell University in the United States.

By looking at 10 years of data from 27 apple orchards in New York state the researchers found that apple production suffers when fewer, more closely-related species of bees pollinate an orchard. Production improves in orchards surrounded by natural habitats, which then draw a broader selection of species to apple blossoms. The study looked at the types of landscapes that surrounded the orchards, measured apple production and surveyed the species of bees that visited each orchard.

“Orchards that have bee communities that are more closely related to each other did worse in terms of their fruit production, and the communities that are more broad across the phylogeny did much better,” said one of the report’s authors, Dr Heather Grab. 

Species of bees exhibit different behaviours in how and when they pollinate flowers. Some species approach from the side, others from the top, and they each may feed at different times of day and with varied frequencies, all of which affect how completely an apple flower is pollinated.

Organs in apple flowers must receive a certain number of pollen grains in order to develop a full complement of seeds. When seeds do well, the tissue that supports those seeds, the fleshy part of the fruit, is also more fully developed. “If only half of the seeds mature fully, then the fruit is misshapen,” which in turn affects weight and saleability, Grab added.

Photo Caption: A carpenter bee visiting an apple flower

Photo Credit: Cornell University

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Pollinator decline threatens food security

According to a UN agency, a growing number of pollinator species worldwide are being driven towards extinction by diverse pressures, many of them human-made.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a two-year global study shows that this decline threatens millions of livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of food supplies. However it also highlights a number of ways to effectively safeguard pollinator populations.

“Pollinators are important contributors to world food production and nutritional security,” said Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca, Ph.D., co-chair of the assessment and Senior Professor at the University of São Paulo. “Their health is directly linked to our own well-being.” There are more than 20,000 species of wild bees alone, plus many species of butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other animals that contribute to pollination.

According to IPBES, the volume of agricultural production dependent on animal pollination has increased by 300 per cent during the past 50 years, but pollinator-dependent crops show lower growth and stability in yield than crops that do not depend on pollinators.

The assessment found that pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides, threaten pollinators worldwide, although the long-term effects are still unknown. A pioneering study conducted in farm fields showed that one neonicotinoid insecticide had a negative effect on wild bees, but the effect on managed honeybees was less clear. “While gaps remain in our knowledge of pollinators, we have more than enough evidence to act,” Prof. Imperatriz-Fonseca said.

Photo Caption: Bees are just one important pollinator

Photo Credit: Pixart Bay

The post Pollinator decline threatens food security appeared first on Hort News on 4 March 2016.

Bumblebee dispenser features lock in system

Biobest has launched a new bumblebee hive box with an automatic lock-in system designed to protect the important pollinators in tomato greenhouses.

According to the company, this keeps the bumblebees safe during lighting periods, while also increasing the intensiveness of pollination when they are allowed to fly out. The system is particularly aimed at in crops grown under artificial lighting, particularly for tomatoes.

“Tomato growers who use bumblebees to pollinate their crops run the risk that the bees will fly into the artificial lights and die,” says Sam Gui, advisor at Biobest. “Thanks to our lock-in system, growers are able to keep their bumblebees inside when the lights are on.”

The lock-in system can also be used to protect the bumblebees when growers use pesticides on their crops, although the company stresses that with integrated production techniques, this is less of an issue these days.

Because the time that the bumblebees can fly out is restricted, it makes them work more intensively during this shorter period. “This is very interesting in the case of tomatoes,” says Sam Gui. After all, we know that pollination works better if it takes place in the morning, within a limited time span.”

The Biobest automatic lock-in system can be operated both manually and remotely with a compressed air system. Every hive has two flight openings: one is for flying ‘in’ and the second is for flying ‘in and out’. The lock-in system ensures that growers are able to close off the ‘in and out’ opening. At that point the bumblebees can only enter their hive but not leave it again.

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