Research aims for buzz

NEW research is aiming to help protect Australia’s crucial pollination services amid a growing number of threats.

The research has been delivered through a Federal Government program.

Across the country, crop pollinators contribute about $14 billion to the economy with more than 35 crops depending on pollination each year.

Honey bees are not the only ones pollinating crops, with native bees and other insects acting as important pollinators.

Growers should consider nearby vegetation can attract and retain pollinators and a series of resources including an interactive online tool have been launched to help growers design their crops.

The research assessed the contribution of pollinators to nine crop species – apple, avocado, blueberry, canola, lucerne, macadamia, mango, raspberry, and watermelon.

The project involved collaboration between bee and pollination researchers from the University of Adelaide, the Australian National University the University of New England and University of Sydney, from 2016 to February this year.

Dr Katja Hogendoorn, lead researcher at the University of Adelaide, said researchers found that native bees, feral honeybees and other insects all played a major role in pollination, but their contribution varied by crop and year.

“Regardless of crops or region, researchers found that diversity in crop pollination depends on the presence of flowering plants and nesting opportunities in the landscape,” Dr Hogendoorn said.

Most native crop-pollinating bees benefit from patches of open soil, while feral honey bees rely on old eucalypt trees for nesting hollows.

In less forested areas, the densities of feral honey bees are not high enough to provide all the pollination required. But all pollinators need food from the landscape when the crop is not in flower.

Dr Hogendoorn said floral support should be available nearly year round in close proximity to the crop to boost the health and diversity of pollinators and ensure polli-nation services remain reliable and resilient.

Overseas, mixes of wild flowers are increasingly used in crop edges along roadsides to support for bees and other pollinators “Our advice is to plant a wide range of local, easy-to-grow native species,” Dr Hogendoorn said.

“Planting designs can focus on understorey species, hedgerows or whole area plantings.

“These plantings also convey a range of other benefits for farm productivity.”

AgriFutures Australia general manager for business development, Michael Beer, said safe-guarding pollination was in the interest of both the growers and consumers of pollination-dependent crop

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