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Industry Gets to Grips with Pollination Problems

Industry Gets to Grips with Pollination Problems

Representatives of horticultural and arable industries, apiarists, and regional and central government agencies met on Wednesday to discuss issues relating to crop pollination. The meeting followed a survey and subsequent report funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Sustainable Farming Fund.

The survey of beekeepers and industries using bees for crop pollination has revealed the potential for a drastic shortage of bees for crop pollination within 5-10 years. The shortage of hives available for pollination arises from the impacts of Varroa mite, the planned increase in horticulture, the reduction in the bee keeping industry along with a shortage of skilled labour that impacts the size of bee keeping operations, competition between pollination and honey production and competition between different crop types requiring pollination.

Pollination of most flowering plants in New Zealand, with the exception of grass species, occurs either partly or fully by insect activity. Without managed honey bees, most of our horticultural and cropping industries would be severely affected by significantly reduced yields; the persistence of clover in pasture would also be compromised as would pollination of plants in urban gardens.

The meeting worked to develop a strategy to eliminate or mitigate the identified threats to the beekeeping industry to ensure ongoing security of supply of export products such as kiwifruit, apples, seeds and other crops and domestic supply of a wide range of fruits, vegetables and seeds not to mention home garden pollination.

“Kiwifruit is a $1 billion export industry that at present uses up to 60,000 hives a season to ensure fruit set. Having carefully managed bee colonies supplied by a skilled beekeeping industry has enabled us to produce record crop volumes of quality, good tasting ZESPRITM Kiwifruit to meet the demands of consumers worldwide,” explained Alistair Mowat, ZESPRI’s Innovation Science Manager.

New Zealand beekeepers, still coping with the incursion of Varroa mite in the North Island, are concerned at plans to import bee products because of the risk of introducing European Foul Brood disease (EFB) and other potential threats.
The meeting agreed that Biosecurity NZ need to realise they are not just evaluating the impacts of importation of bee products on the bee industry but on the whole of the horticulture sector – a $2 billion per annum industry and critical to New Zealand’s capability to earn export dollars. If EFB were introduced to New Zealand the fast spread of the disease could wipe out hives required to pollinate an entire kiwifruit crop whilst beekeepers got to grips with controlling the disease and got clearances to use products to control the infection.

“We need a strategy in place to meet these pollination demands and the threats to New Zealand’s export industries, growers and beekeepers livelihoods.” said New Zealand Beekeepers Association President, Jane Lorimer.

Ends.

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