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The future of horticulture and pollinators: how to ensure pollinator health in protected cropping systems

Publication date: 30 October 2020

To celebrate Australian pollinator week, Hort Innovation highlighted the importance of pollinator health in the protected cropping sector.

Past event (Thursday 12 November 2020)

Watch the webinar recording 


Questions were submitted prior to the webinar and during the webinar. For questions and responses see below. 

Question 1 

A grower can hire a box of honey bees to pollinate a crop, can a grower hire a box of native pollinators? Do they breed well in captivity and do they transport well?

Response: Yes, there are a few companies that supply stingless bees to farmers for pollination. Like honey bees, they can be transported and under correct management, breed and survive well in covered and open environments. They are a tropical species so are only available for crops in production as far south as Sydney. Perhaps provide some links to suppliers, I know of but there are others.  

In NT, NSW and Queensland stingless bees can be seen on apple, macadamia, watermelon, mango, blueberry and raspberry crops. They can be bought and moved, but they may not fly very far, so may need to be in close proximity of the crop. Other bees cannot be bought in Australia. Most native pollinators of apple and pear are solitary ground nesters, which can be stimulated by providing flowers (flowering weeds and native) during and after crop flowering. Reed bees can be encouraged in some areas (Victoria NSW Tasmania) if native vegetation is close by, by attaching bundles of dead blackberry/raspberry canes to tree trunks.

Question 2 

Is there a point at which bees can't or won't be able to keep up with expanding horticulture - does demand for honey bees exceed supply?

Response: Right now, there are enough managed honey bees to support horticulture, but horticulture is growing and the honey bee industry is not – this may mean in the future that demand will exceed supply.

There are some voices that suggest that demand is already exceeding supply. The beekeeping industry needs to make its money largely from honey. During dry years (and with habitat clearing, nectar is in increasingly lower supply, it is difficult to produce honey, and therefore costly to maintain the hives needed for the pollination industry. The only thing we can do is to plant bee food in the landscape. The other benefits of that are carbon storage, reduced heating of the land (compared to bare soil), and maintaining our unique biodiversity. Sustainable agriculture fits in with that and will be in increasing demand. Large land clearing and monocultures are unsustainable in the long run.  


What was this webinar about?

The protected cropping industry in Australia is becoming more developed with a growing network of progressive innovators and scientists pushing the industry forward, recognizing the value that controlled environments will have in the future of food production.

Protected cropping provides the opportunity to control some of the variables that come with growing horticulture – most of these controls involved physical barriers. These barriers keep out lots of bad things, but also happen to keep out important pollinators and affect how they operate.

This webinar looked at the future of pollination and how we will ensure pollinator health with the expansion of protected cropping systems. 


Through the Q&A Panel, participants discovered insights into the issues pollinators face in doing their jobs in protected cropping environments. Researchers currently involved in the Rural R&D for Profit Program - 'Novel technologies and practices for the optimisation of pollination within protected cropping environment’ managed by Hort Innovation, discussed research and strategies that are being investigated to overcome these issue and ensure effective partnerships between growers and pollinators.


  • Introductions to the topic, the panellists and housekeeping
  • Formal Q&A discussion 
  • Q&A from the participants
  • Closing reflection  

The host and guest presenters

Ashley Zamek, Research & Development Manager, Hort Innovation

Ashley is a Research and Development Manager at Hort Innovation, responsible for the portfolios of Pollination, Postharvest and Integrated Pest and Disease Management. These portfolios work across the 27 horticultural industries Hort Innovation represents and Ashley also sits on the Agrifutures Honey Bee and Pollination Advisory panel.

Dr Lisa Evans, Scientist, Plant and Food Research 

Dr Lisa Evans has expertise in social insect behaviour and crop pollination, including crops grown under covers. She is currently leading a NZ Sustainable Farming Fund research program, which is developing methods to improve honey bee hive health and pollination under nets as well as investigating means of artificially pollinating covered Gold kiwifruit.

Dr Katja Hogendoorn, Senior Researcher, The University of Adelaide 

Dr Katja Hogendoorn specialises in the field of bee behaviour, in particular of foraging behaviour of bees on crops. She has extensive experience with pollination research in enclosures, using honey bees and native bees.

About the Hort Innovation Insights webinar series for growers

The Hort Innovation Insights webinar series connects you with the people closest to the research and investments you want to know more about. Each short online session features subject matter experts, project delivery partners and Hort Innovation staff discussing key topics, opportunities and challenges for horticulture growers.

Grab a cuppa and attend a live session to ask questions and discover essential insights and tools to implement in your business today. Webinar recordings are also available after each event if you can’t join us live.

See more here