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Getting the best outcome when pollinating crops 09 Oct 2012

There’s increasing recognition amongst food producers of the benefits of paying a beekeeper for pollination services, driven partly by the threat of pests and diseases to the huge population of escaped European honey bees which currently provide Australia with those services for free.

 

Studies have shown that yield and quality can be increased for a number of fruit, vegetable and pasture crops through the use of managed hives, and a resource has been launched today to help with the proper preparation of both bees and crops.

 

Gerald Martin, Chairman of the Pollination R&D Advisory Committee, says the new manual will ensure the best outcomes are achieved, increasing profits for producers and increasing their ability to pay for pollination services.

 

“With the threat of Varroa hanging over our heads, as well as many other bee pests and diseases, it’s important for those growing pollination-reliant crops to develop a relationship now with a beekeeper.

 

“If it arrives, Varroa will virtually wipe out our wild bees and we’ll lose the free service they currently provide. It will also dramatically cut the number of managed hives available, especially at peak times like spring. We’re facing a potential shortage of more than half a million beehives needed for the pollination of our food supply,” Mr Martin said.

 

Australia has one of the largest populations of escaped European honeybees and we rely heavily on them for an estimated 65 per cent of agricultural production which depends on pollination. Australia is also one of the last countries in the world still free of the Varroa mite.

 

Pollination of Crops in Australia and New Zealand provides practical information on specific issues related to the pollination of more than 30 crops, aimed at improving food production and maintaining healthy bees.

 

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

 

It was written by the NZ Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd by pollination researcher Dr Mark Goodwin. It is available on the RIRDC website at www.rirdc.gov.au.

Media contact: Damon Whittock, ph. 02 6271 4175