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Wild Pollinators Enhance Fruit Set of Crops Regardless of Honey Bee Abundance


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Very cool paper just out in Science.

 

First author is Lucas Garibaldi. Lots of authors so haven't listed them all here.

 

Abstract:

Diversity and abundance of wild-insect pollinators have declined in many agricultural landscapes. Whether such declines reduce crop yields, or are mitigated by managed pollinators such as honey bees, is unclear. Here we show universally positive associations of fruit set with wild-insect visits to flowers in 41 crop systems worldwide, and thus clearly demonstrate their agricultural value. In contrast, fruit set increased significantly with visitation by honey bees in only 14% of the systems surveyed. Overall, wild insects pollinated crops more effectively, because increase in their visitation enhanced fruit set by twice as much as an equivalent increase in honey bee visitation. Further, visitation by wild insects and honey bees promoted fruit set independently, so high abundance of managed honey bees supplemented, rather than substituted for, pollination by wild insects. Our results suggest that new practices for integrated management of both honey bees and diverse wild-insect assemblages will enhance global crop yields.

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Frazz nailed it. Great news for wild spaces (though kind of irrelevant for NZ since our botany evolved without AM pollinators anyway), but not applicable to commercial crops.

 

My day job works with fruit growers. Without the sudden hard hit that the introduction of honeybee hives primed for pollination work brings, growers would be in all sorts of schtuk.

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Dee I love your ability to sound like you have just passed your Masters degree at Lincoln University

 

(though kind of irrelevant for NZ since our botany evolved without AM pollinators anyway), but not applicable to commercial crops.

 

and in the next breath you sound just like me with one subject pass in School Cert!

 

growers would be in all sorts of schtuk.
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Not really possible to comment on the paper on the basis of an abstract, but often these studies on pollen limitation are tricky. The methodology is frequently faulty, and the bias is towards overestimating the effect on fruit set and formation. It isn't a surprise that honeybees are not the most effective pollinators of many crops, and I don't doubt the value of wild pollinators, but in some circumstances (not that many) crop monocultures have reduced or eliminated them, or are simply too big for wild pollinators to cope with. Almonds spring to mind. It would be interesting to know what crops they are talking about and their importance. Some 60% of global food production comes from crops that don't depend on animal (insect) pollinators at all, so it's difficult to agree that "new practices...will enhance global crop yields" without some qualification. It's also interesting that, according to the theorists, pollen should never limit seed set, as the resource available for the female plant to support set seed is equally limiting; there is supposed to be a balance between the two.

 

I find I'm wondering too about how this fits with the old argument about the effect of honeybees on native plants (not crops) and pollinators in ecological reserves.

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  • 2 months later...
Very cool paper just out in Science.

 

First author is Lucas Garibaldi.

 

The current edition of Science (May 24th) carries a couple of Letters, one contains a short critique of this paper by Jaboury Ghazoul, and the other, a response to the critique. I was reading them when Science discovered I wasn't after all a subscriber and closed my screen. I'd be interested to hear anyone's account of them, from those of you who are subscibers!

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Honey bees are very important for pollination. But are you aware that bumble bees are being widely used for crop pollination here in NZ. Most glass house crops, tomatoes for example are being pollinated by bumble bees. I am also aware that early season kiwifruit and blueberries are using bumble bees for pollination as they work better earlier in the season, when it is cooler. There are only a few people breeding bumble bees for this market at the moment.

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bumbles may be more efficient at pollination but bees simply out do them with numbers.

i don't know with kiwi or other fruits but with avo's if its to cold for the bees to pollinate then the flowers won't be opening at the right time and the odds of any fruit set actually staying on the tree at that temp is very small. so you don't really want pollination when its to cold.

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Honey bees are very important for pollination. But are you aware that bumble bees are being widely used for crop pollination here in NZ. Most glass house crops, tomatoes for example are being pollinated by bumble bees. .

 

This may be true now, but Iknow a lot of Tomatoe growers around Oamaru, they have always used flies for the glasshouses. It is the random 'zippiness' (tech term there) that made the flies better than bees. Plus, also cheaper to get and don't have to worry about what to do with them after grow season.

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Bumblebees have a longer tongue and can pollinate some things honeybees can't, such as red clover

The other advantage they have is something called 'buzz pollination' the which is good for sticky pollen. They will vibrate at the right frequency to release the pollen, something honeybees don't do.

 

Sent using Tapatalk HD

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Can you imagine how many bumblebees you would need to pollinate a kiwi fruit orchard

I'm trying Frazz. Something like 6% of the bees in a honeybee pollination hive visit the kiwifruit flowers. At more than eight hives per hectare (which is what is recommended) in round numbers the lowest bee density is 6%(30K x 8) or over 14,000 bees per hectare, for three to ten days. That's a lot of visiting. :)

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a lot of Tomatoe growers around Oamaru, they have always used flies for the glasshouses.

I didn't know that! I have a pal who uses flies for carrot seed (and other umbelliferous things). They're pretty easy, he just used to buy maggots from the angling suppliers.

Mind you, the bumbles are pretty easy too, you just open the box. I'd like to think you could populate the countyside with them after, but they're pretty stuffed, and anyway there isn't the habitat for them. Maybe not too bad here, but in EU its a big problem. I'd like to keep bumbles, but it's a very secretive world, hard to get into.

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