Researchers analyze usage in global cash culture – sciencedaily

Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and birds, are essential for agricultural production. However, natural pollination can also fail or be insufficient, which can lead to lower yields and lower quality. This means that alternative solutions are needed. Manual pollination, in which pollen is applied manually or mechanically to the flower, can supplement or replace pollination by animals. Researchers from the universities of Göttingen and Hohenheim are now presenting the first systematic review of manual pollination of food crops. They show that hand pollination is used worldwide on 20 crops, including economically important plants such as apple, oil palm and cocoa. The results of the study were published in the journal Basic and applied ecology.

In recent years, the cultivation of plants that depend on pollinators has increased around the world. At the same time, there has been a marked and widespread decline in pollinators due to land use changes, and in particular more intensive agriculture. Little research has been done on where hand pollination is prevalent and its importance. After reviewing the literature, the researchers found that hand pollination is frequently used for many fruits and, in fact, is used worldwide for vanilla, passion fruit, date palm, oil palm. and the two tree species, Atemoya (sugar apple) and Cherimoya. (English apple), the fruits of which are important crops in the American tropics.

There are many reasons – environmental, climatic, or economic – why hand pollination might be necessary. The most important factor is the lack of natural pollinators, which can have various causes. In particular, crops that depend on a single specialized species for pollination are threatened. Many plants are also cultivated outside their natural habitat, for example vanilla in Madagascar and oil palm in Indonesia. When the natural and wild pollinators of these crops are absent, hand pollination is often used. Overuse of pesticides and loss of natural habitat for pollinators can also result in the need for hand pollination. For example, passion fruit production in Brazil is affected by low numbers of carpenter bees and Atemoya cultivation in Australia by missing beetles (Nitidulidae).

“Our study shows that hand pollination in agriculture can often reduce or prevent financial losses, making it an attractive and cost-effective method,” emphasizes Professor Teja Tscharntke, head of the agroecology department at the University of Göttingen. Manual pollination allows farmers to ensure consistent yields, avoid over- or under-pollination, manage pollination frequency, control the origin of pollen and choose the optimal time for pollination. Quality indicators – such as shape, size or juice content, which are essential for ensuring a high market value – can be improved for some crops through hand pollination.

Professor Ingo Grass, head of the Department of Tropical Agricultural Systems Ecology at the University of Hohenheim, adds that hand pollination has its own challenges and risks: “It takes time and is labor-intensive because it involves several steps. . collecting, drying, storing and distributing pollen. Investing in more labor and materials can be too costly for large-scale farming systems in particular. “Thus, it is important to consider the costs and benefits of manual pollination before its introduction. Costs can be reduced by developing new technologies such as automated techniques, but if this is not possible, manual pollination is often carried out by low-paid workers, even children, in poor working conditions. “Therefore, hand pollination must be accompanied by socio-ecological standards that include protection of natural pollinators and means to ensure working practices safe and fair, ”concludes Grass.

Annemarie Wurz, agroecologist at the University of Göttingen and lead author of the study, emphasizes: “Where natural pollination is available or can be restored, it must be a priority, because it is the most efficient method, the most profitable and the most respectful of biodiversity. option. “The research team sees the potential for hand pollination where there are no pollinators – as in vanilla cultivation in Madagascar – or where pollinators are not reliable enough – as in the cultivation of passion fruit in Brazil.

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