Pollination for seed production

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When we think of the role honey bees play in broader Australian agriculture, we typically think of key pollination dependent industries such as almonds, blueberries and avocados.

But did you know that pollination also plays a critical role in the production of seeds?

Craig Garland is a production manager for South Pacific Seeds, one of the key industry partners for Plan Bee, Australia’s national honey bee genetic improvement program.

According to Craig, pollination is absolutely critical for the seed production industry.

“Approximately 80% of seeds produced by South Pacific Seeds in Australia involve insect pollination and honey bees are a significant part of the insect pollination that we use. Our customers rely on us to provide out-of-season production options and the ability to spread the risk of seed production over many locations.”

Craig says that with the recent varroa outbreak, and increasing weather volatility, it’s important that the entire food production industry understands the role that improved genetics can play in the productivity and profitability of Australian agriculture, and ultimately our food security.

“We consider understanding and managing bee stocks’ genetics to be paramount.

“The ability to supply bees that are healthy, adaptable to climatic variables and robust to work in generally mono-cultural environments is critical for Australia’s ability to grow the food sources we need.

“With the varroa mite incursion still raging in New South Wales, and uncertainty about whether eradication will be possible, genetic diversity may prove vital for selecting bees that are more resistant to the varroa mite.

“The ability to understand the desirable genetic traits and then to transfer these genetic traits through queen breeders to commercial beekeepers is an important step for us.”

Plan Bee is working closely with a variety of key stakeholders such as South Pacific Seeds to ensure that the program is led by insights from key industry partners.

For more information contact Nadine Chapman, lead researcher for Plan Bee, Nadine.chapman@sydney.edu.au.

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