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Pollination Solutions Sought

Pollination Solutions Sought

Federated Farmers is keen to work with the government on finding ways to solve problems caused by the spread of the varroa bee mite, said Frank Brenmuhl, chair of Dairy Farmers of New Zealand, the dairy arm of Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

“The base to New Zealand’s successful pastoral sector is the white clover in our pasture, which is able to naturally convert nitrogen from the air into nitrogen in the soil. This white clover relies largely on the feral bee population for its pollination.

The varroa mite (varroa destructor) is an external parasite of honey bees that attacks adult bees and their developing larvae, weakening and killing honeybee colonies.

“With no feral bees to pollinate white clover the natural source of nitrogen in our soils will be severely depleted.

“The only option for farmers will be to add more fertiliser. This will come at a huge cost,” Mr Brenmuhl said.

MAF has estimated the cost to the pastoral industry of the varroa mite to be around $234 million. But this is an extremely conservative estimate, and the longer term effects could be in the billions,” said Mr Brenmuhl.

“Farmers want to work with the government to seek solutions to the problems caused by varroa. Dumping huge amounts of fertiliser on pastures is not a sustainable answer.

“Judging on what has happened in the North Island, South Islanders can expect varroa to be in Bluff by 2010 with the south’s feral bee population decimated,” said Mr Brenmuhl.

“We need to start finding solutions to the problems that the spread of varroa will cause pastoral farmers,” Mr Brenmuhl said.

“It is encouraging that the government, through the Sustainable Farming Fund, has allocated $103,000 towards strategic planning for pollination needs in export crops, and that it has pledged to investigate potential research proposals for pollination dependent primary sectors. However, given the importance of the pastoral sector to the New Zealand economy, the allocation and pledge are just a start,” Mr Brenmuhl said.

Ends

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