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Ongoing project

Crop and varietal data to better understand the importance of pollination (PH20001)

Key research provider: The New Zealand Institutes for Plant & Food Research

What’s it all about?

This project will ensure that all available crop pollination dependency data is easily accessible to relevant stakeholders (e.g. growers, apiarists, consultants, plant breeders) and that ongoing data collection is standardised and addresses research gaps. Having access to this information will enable strategies for effective pollination to be developed by industry through understanding of their pollination requirements across varieties.

The research team will undertake the following:

  • Creation of a central, updateable database which collates existing horticultural crop pollination dependence data. This will include a summary of cultivar specific crop pollination requirements (i.e. cross vs self) and key insect pollinators (both managed and wild insects).
  • Development and publication of methods for ongoing pollination dependency data collection.

  • Delivery of new knowledge (case studies) addressing research gaps in crop pollination via field assessments to evaluate pollinator dependency of key Australian crop varieties.

  • Completion of a gap analysis regarding pollination dependence, and pollinator management for various cultivars and regions, including remaining research gaps and limitations to best-case pollination management for focal industries.

  • Transfer of findings and resources to stakeholders via development of targeted training brochures, published articles, delivery of workshops, and training on use of pollination database.

In the first year of this program, the collaborative research team (made up of researchers from Plant & Food Research, Griffith University, Western Sydney University, and the University of New England) have undertaken trials relevant to pollination of blueberries, mangoes, lychee, macadamia, apples, and avocado. Flowering and harvest times vary across these crops and the regions they are grown in, so data collection and analysis are ongoing. 

Preliminary results reinforce that there is substantial variation in the dependence on outcrossing (cross-pollination) between the focal crops studied, and among cultivars of each crop. For example, among ten highbush blueberry cultivars tested in controlled hand-pollination experiments, there was significant impact on fruit weight and number of seeds resulting from both maternal parentage and pollen parentage with a single maternal line. Similar results are being found in other crops – certain cultivars of macadamia have increased kernel mass and/or kernel recovery with specific cross-pollen parentage combinations.

Additionally, the project group is assessing the ideal distance between compatible cultivars for improving pollination, and evaluating the distribution of pollinating insects at different locations in fields. Together, these data will support development of new, cultivar-specific recommendations for the spatial arrangements in new orchard plantings, identify ‘ideal’ combinations between maternal lines and pollen parents, and provide recommendations for pollinator management on-farm, leading to enhanced productivity and profitability across these pollination-dependent industries.

Additionally, the group is making good progress towards the development of an accessible database of known pollination requirements globally. To date, 1,954 relevant research papers have been identified and more than half of these have been assessed to extract information pertinent to the database. The project group has also conducted two grower-focused workshops, and has prepared or published two grower-focused articles on up-to date pollination information.