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Importance of Crop Pollination

By: Forrest Scharf (PAg) Provincial Specialist, Fruit Crops

Growers interested in maximizing productivity of their orchards and improving diversity and health of pollinator insect species may benefit from watching a series of webinars recently offered by the USDA’s “Integrated Crop Pollination Project” (ICPP), and by accessing some of ICPP’s wild bee management documents. 

A bumble bee pollinating
haskap flowers, 2016

In a recent webinar focused on apple and cherry pollination, ICPP member Juliana K. Wilson from Michigan State University (MSU) indicated that many growers only pay attention to bees during the bloom period, when these insects serve to pollinate flowers. However, in order to maximize bee health and the pollination efficiency of fruit orchards, fruit growers should promote and manage habitat throughout the year, enabling bee populations to increase. Poor pollination can lead to misshapen fruit, poor fruit quality and lower yield. Even tart cherries benefit from insect pollination, despite this fruit crops’ flowers being self-compatible. Self-compatible crops are often thought not to need pollination.

There are various ways that pollination activity can be interrupted or made less efficient. Bees are temperature sensitive and reduce activity at near-freezing temperatures, which often occur during the bloom period (in spring). Wet weather also interferes with pollination. Wild bees are generally better adapted to cooler temperatures; various documents are available from the ICPP website outlining how to make supportive habitats for those species.

In another webinar focusing on blueberries, Rufus Isaacs, another ICPP member from MSU, highlighted data that reflects the significance of pollination. He noted that the greater the number of bees, the more pollination, seeds and berries, and the greater the size of berries that can be harvested.

Another resource for “would-be” apiculturists from the “Honey Bee Health Coalition” is a document called “Tools for Varroa Management”, which is the coalition’s fifth guide regarding best management practices to control this destructive mite.

For a list of more ICPP webinars and events, please visit their website.

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