Paid pollination returns amazing results 17 May 2013

Many horticultural producers see paying for pollination services as a necessary cost, but for one Australian seed company it has made them a world leader in carrot seed production.

South Pacific Seeds production manager Andrew Jones says pollination is the greatest cost to the company’s growers multiplying seed, but the last thing they are trying to do is miminise that cost. Instead it’s a price they are more than willing to cover.

“It’s fair to say that our approach has made us a world leader in seed multiplication, and we now have bases in Mt Gambier, Hillston, Swan Hill, Tasmania, Chile, America and New Zealand.”

South Pacific Seeds uses pollination very effectively, focusing on using strong healthy hives of bees, and the results speak for themselves.

“We have growers that we contract to multiply the seeds as a third party, so we advise growers on the number of bees and timing of bees that we require to ensure great multiplication. Every crop is expected to have this set number of hives,” Mr Jones said. 

With 65 per cent of food crops relying on pollination from honeybees, it’s often market leaders recognising the advantage of developing and maintaining relationships with beekeepers who provide paid pollination services, particularly in seed production which is 10 per cent pollination reliant.

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. The persistent threat of Varroa mite arriving in Australia is increasing the importance of paid pollination, and all producers are encouraged to establish relationships with beekeepers now.

“Our counterparts in Europe and New Zealand give us lots of information about the impact Varroa has had on production. The difficulty many of them are having in getting the services of pollinators and the increased cost are both a concern.

“Carrot seed in particular is an expensive crop to pollinate, and hives in general cost somewhere between $110 and $150 each, so you can imagine, depending on the numbers needed for your crop how this cost is significant.

“If Varroa arrives and drives this cost up higher it will be really devastating for our business. We work with our growers and our beekeepers to make sure we are all aware of the threats and are up to date with information.”

Mr Jones says there is a benefit for the beekeepers in these relationships too, particularly with growers who maintain healthy crops, given the pollination process maximises honey production by the bees.

“Beekeepers are obviously also the front line in detection of things like Varroa, and with early detection and good management, our hope is that our business and the pollination industries we rely on can continue to prosper.”