Guide has all the buzz

Countryman

Pollination by bees, the lifeline of many horticultural crops, is being threatened by mites and deforestation.

A pollination manual aims to provide practical advice for beekeepers and the many growers reliant on bees for production.

An estimated 65 per cent of agricultural production in Australia relies on honeybees for pollination.

The manual is being prepared under the Pollination Program, a research and development strategy jointly funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), Horticulture Australia Ltd (HAL) and the Federal Government.

Lead author and pollination researcher Mark Godwin said the manual would provide background information on the importance of pollination and the basics of plant flowering for specific crops and the pollination process.

“The idea of the manual is to give straightforward information that readers can readily apply,” he said.

“It is being written in plain language that will clearly lay out the relationship between bees and their crops and how growers can best manage that relationship to ensure good crop outcomes and maintain healthy bee populations.”

Pollination R&D advisory committee chairman Gerald Martin said it was essential to optimise pollination and promote good pollination practices.

“A recent Pollination Program report, Pollination Aware, points out that a heavy reliance on incidental pollination means the yield and quality of produce is often not reaching its potential,” he said.

“However, growers will only pay for services if they are cost-effective.

“The more demand there is for paid pollination and the greater the returns for beekeepers, the more the industry will expand.

“This, in turn, will protect agricultural and horticultural industries against the impact on wild bees of an incursion of varroa mite.

“This parasitic pest has already devastated honeybee populations around the world and scientists say it’s only a matter of time before it reaches Australian shores.

“It has already reached New Zealand.”

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