Securing Pollination

Australian agriculture and horticulture relies on pollination from honey bees. It’s estimated that 65 per cent of horticultural and agricultural crops produced in Australia require pollination services. Some of the most important questions and concerns currently facing pollination-dependent industries will be answered in an Australian first, multi-million dollar research project.

AgriFutures Australia has been awarded a grant through the second round of the Australian Government’s Rural R&D for Profit Programme to deliver the project called Securing Pollination for More Productive Agriculture: Guidelines for effective pollinator management and stakeholder adoption. This project will support collaboration between Australia’s most knowledgeable bee and pollination researchers to assess the contribution of pollinators to nine Australian crops (apples pears, lucerne, almonds, canola, melons, blueberries, raspberries and mangoes), investigate re-establishing native vegetation to support pollinator food and nesting resources, and use new technologies to communicate the findings to farmers.

Developing strategies to enhance productivity and profitability, the project will provide detailed scientific information on pollinator effectiveness and densities, bee movements, and pollination distances. The assessment of pollinator habitats, particularly foraging and nesting plants, will also assist in developing strategies against the Varroa mite.

Project funding

This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program. Under the Rural R&D for Profit Program, AgriFutures Australia received:

Grant funding: $5,255,000

Cash contributions from partners: $3,409,447

In-kind contributions from partners: $5,135,457

Total project resources: $13,799,904

Project partners

  • Horticulture Innovation Australia
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Adelaide
  • University of New England
  • Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board
  • Almond Board of Australia
  • Apple and Pear Growers Association (SA)
  • Australian Mango Industry Association
  • Australian Melon Association
  • Australian National University
  • Costa Group
  • Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources SA
  • Greening Australia
  • Lucerne Australia
  • Native Vegetation Council
  • Natural Resources Northern and Yorke
  • O’Connor NRM
  • Primary Industries and Resources SA
  • Raspberries and Blackberries Australia
  • South Australian Apiarist Association
  • Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Network Eco-informatics
  • Trees For Life.

Sub projects

Securing crop pollination through vegetation

Researchers from the University of Adelaide will collaborate with grower organisations, state government partners, NRM boards and non-government organisations to design revegetation strategies for crop pollinators. This will involve identification of useful crop pollinators, their seasonality and the native plants that support them. The revegetation advice will be targeted to South Australian pollination dependent crops and cropping regions. Demonstration projects will be developed around pollinators of canola, Lucerne and apple and pear.

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Assessing honey bee colony densities at landscape scales

In this sub-project, honey bee queen pheromones will be used to attract male honey bees to an aerial trap suspended from a helium balloon. The males will be genotyped to determine the number of colonies from which they were drawn, providing robust estimates of the density of colonies within drone flight range of the trap. Field trials will be carried it with the almond, Lucerne, cherry and blueberry industries.

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The efficiency of crop pollinating insects in Australia

This sub-project will evaluate how pollinator density and efficiency relate to crop yields for a number of high value Australian horticultural crops. Researchers will do this by measuring the frequency in which pollinators visit flowers and how effective they are at transferring pollen. A mobile phone app will be developed to record and help identify crop pollinator sightings.

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