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Crop monitoring assists with global biodiversity programme, Operation Pollinator™

Fruitfed Supplies Crop Monitoring Team

Crop monitoring assists with global biodiversity programme, Operation Pollinator™

 Honeybees are vital for pollination, but they aren’t the only insects performing this critical task.

Operation Pollinator™ is a global biodiversity programme developed by Syngenta to promote the wellbeing of pollinators on commercial farms. Locally, Syngenta has partnered with Plant & Food Research to investigate ways to improve the range of pollinators in kiwifruit orchards.

A trial planting guide of native shrubs and trees was developed as part of the project, to guide kiwifruit growers on the species mix to establish near orchards to support pollinators and natural enemies of pests, while minimising the risk of supporting known kiwifruit pests themselves. It’s expected that the increased variety of pollinators visiting kiwifruit flowers will support the pollination carried out by contract honeybees.

Diversifying pollinators in orchards increases pollination resilience and can increase fruit quality. Kiwifruit requires many pollinator visits to deliver the pollen grains to ensure optimal fruit quality. Bumblebees and native Leioproctus bees deliver more pollen on average than honeybees on each flower visit, benefiting fruit yield. Bumblebees and flies also pollinate flowers when the weather does not suit honeybee foraging.

Surveys began at two Bay of Plenty blocks in 2019, prior to planting locally-sourced natives in September 2020 in unused orchard areas, close to the canopy. Another survey commenced in 2021 at a Kerikeri block following planting of native plant species. The annual monitoring during flowering is compared to an untreated control using window trap and observational surveys.
“We are in the monitoring phase of the project,” says Raeleen Watherston, Customer Marketing Lead at Syngenta. “Last year we enlisted the help of Fruitfed Supplies Crop Monitoring team in Bay of Plenty headed by Anton Herselman to monitor sites. The Plant & Food Research project team lead by Dr Brad Howlett provided training and resources, allowing the Crop Monitoring team to collect high quality data. The Crop Monitoring team did a highly professional job.”

Over the three-year survey period to date, honeybees remain the most abundant pollinator in all orchards. Each year, a more diverse array of pollinator species has been observed at the trial sites compared to control blocks where the diversity of insects was very low. 

Sample analysis and a final report from this year’s monitoring is being prepared by Plant & Food Research. This project’s trial native plant guide is available via the Zespri publication: Plants with Purpose – A Guide for Native and Shelterbelt Plantings on New Zealand Kiwifruit Orchards. 

Talk with your local Fruitfed Supplies Technical Horticultural Representative to find out more.