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Ongoing project

Novel technologies and practices for the optimisation of pollination within protected cropping environments (ST19000)

Key research provider: NSW Department of Primary Industries, University of Tasmania, University of Adelaide, Plant and Food Research Australia and University of New England

What’s it all about?

This project is a collaborative piece of work funded through the Australian Government’s Rural R&D for Profit initiative. This investment will improve the quality and yield of fruit and vegetable seeds produced in protected cropping environments by developing advanced technologies for pollination in protected cropping horticulture sector.

Australian horticultural industries are increasingly reliant on protected cropping to reduce yield variability in association with the impacts of extreme weather events, pests and diseases and the efficiency of inputs such as water, fertilisers, labour, land and energy. In Australia, a number of high-value industries are grown under protected cropping systems including raspberries, blueberries, apples and vegetables. These high-value industries are significantly expanding in production across Australia at an average rate of four to six per cent growth each year. Blueberry production as an example has increased from 5,500 tonnes to 17,000 tonnes in the last five years representing more than 80 per cent of Australia’s total berry production.

Despite the benefits of protected cropping, there is increasing evidence to suggest that the altered environmental conditions caused by protective environments can negatively impact crop plant physiology and reproduction, insect pollinators and the pollination services they provide. This means that many growers are experiencing inadequate pollination resulting in lower yields and fruit quality than could otherwise be achieved under these growing conditions. The causes of these yield deficits have been attributed to lower plant and pollinator performance under enclosed conditions – both of which could prospectively be rectified with the development and adoption of new technologies and adaptive, grower-driven research.

The overarching aims of the program are to:

  • Increase insect pollinator efficacy and pollination by improving the performance of honey bees under covers.
  • Manipulate plant floral and reproductive traits to improve fruit production and quality.
  • Optimise the placement of pollen donor plants (pollinisers) to enable growers to manipulate crop/orchard configuration to sustain high fruit yield and quality.
  • Improve and advance innovative methods of mechanical pollination to achieve pollination artificially, in the absence of insects.

Who is involved in the work?

This collaborative research program involves a variety of teams all being led by Hort Innovation:

  • NSW Department of Primary Industries
  • Plant & Food Research Australia
  • The University of Adelaide
  • University of Tasmania
  • The University of New England

There also a number of participating horticultural businesses including Daintree Fresh, ALGA, Seed Purity, APAL, Hansen Orchards, Costa, Reid Fruits, OzGroup, South Pacific Seeds and G2 Netting System.

What is the Rural R&D for Profit program?

The Australian Government’s Rural R&D for Profit program is a competitive grants initiative that boosts funding to the country’s 15 rural research and development corporations. It supports nationally coordinated research for the benefit of Australian primary producers, outside of the levy system. Since the program began in 2015, Hort Innovation has led or otherwise supported a number of collaborative Rural R&D for Profit projects, including this one. You can learn more about the program on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s website here.


This project is managed by Hort Innovation and supported by funding from the Australian Government’s Rural R&D for Profit program.