A new study that reports approximately 30% of our diet is produced as a result of the activity of pollinators like bees has investigated the role that our native bees can play in increasing the yield and quality of vegetable seeds like carrots and leek. The Development of native bees as pollinators of vegetable seed crops study undertaken by the University of Adelaide is one of a large range of studies to be published on the vegetable industry’s pioneering national knowledge management R&D database this month.
AUSVEG spokesperson Andrew White said that the study was one of around several hundred that took place every year to ensure Australians were eating vegetables that had been produced using the most cost-effective, efficient, and innovative methods of food production.
“Pollination is particularly important for those vegetables that produce a seed like watermelons, as well as in the seed production process, which is what this study looked at,” Mr White said.
“As part of the study, over two years 36 species of native bees were caught, and 26 species were observed to try and identify possible native bee pollinators of leek and carrot in hybrid seed production.”
AUSVEG is the national peak industry body representing around 7,000 vegetable growers.
“A number of species of native bees are known to visit carrot and leek and so the study looked at the possibility of increasing the populations of native bees in cases where honeybees where providing suboptimal pollination.
“Promoting the positive benefits of native bees when there is suboptimal pollination from honeybees may be significant and this study provided evidence of some good results when crops were exposed to native bee populations in addition to honeybees,” Mr White said.
“The study also found that growers can do a range of things to improve native bee populations at their properties such as minimising tillage to protect nests, planting windbreaks made up of native flowering plants and protecting flowering plants and nest sites,” he said.
“Research into the benefits of native bees is not only of benefit to the seed industry, but to the broader horticulture sector. Developing better quality and yielding seeds may have significant benefits for the food industry and vegetable growers in the future. Compared to enclosed pollination with honeybees the study found that hybrid seed production of carrot and leek in particular, was enhanced when grown outside.”
“The species of native bees that visited carrot and leek production sites was able to be evaluated in the study and this will play an important role as future bee populations might be influenced towards the species that will have the largest positive impact.”
The AUSVEG national R&D database was produced through the Vegetable Industry Development Program funded by HAL using the National Vegetable Levy with matched funds from the Australia Government. The database can be accessed from www.ausveg.com.au.