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What is pollination?
For many crops pollination is the basis of fruit set. Only good pollination will result in optimum seed set, the basis for the best fruit of the highest quality in size, quality, vitamins and shelf life, providing the best potential clients can get. Most crops depend on insects for the transfer of pollen. For some other crops wind, water and also vertebrates such as mice, bats and birds can be important. Koppert is focused on bumblebee (insect) pollination due to various benefits outlined below.
Flowers of most fruit crops produce nectar and pollen, however the quantity and quality varies greatly. Not only between different crops but also between cultivars. When pollinators like bumblebees and honey bees visit the flowers they collect nectar and gather pollen in the ‘fur’ of the abdomen and thorax which on a regular basis is transferred into special pollen baskets on their rear legs. The pollen is brought back to the nest and is used as food for the larvae. During the flower visits, unintentionally a lot of pollen sticks to the fur of the insect. In this way the pollen can be transferred from one flower to the stigma of the same or another flower, enabling cross-pollination.In self-pollinating crops like blueberries and tomatoes, the visits of bumblebees are even more beneficial because the flower is vibrated by the bees ('buzz pollination'), which results in optimum pollination.
Pollination in protected crops
Pollination is very important in horticulture because most commercial fruit will not develop if the flowers are not pollinated properly. In commercial greenhouses in which fruit and vegetables are grown, pollination is in particular important for tomatoes, soft fruit, zucchini, melons and peppers. In greenhouses wind and natural pollinators are almost entirely absent, therefore the use of insects or artificial pollination is indispensable.
Effective pollination leads to improved yields of better quality fruit due to:
- Better fruit set: the better the pollination the more fruits generally can be harvested.
- Larger fruit: more seeds stimulating optimum development resulting in larger fruit.
- Longer shelf life: seeds also stimulate the uptake of Calcium in the fruit making the fruit (skin) more resistant to diseases and handling during storage reducing the post harvest losses significantly.
- Better fruit shape: good pollinated fruits result in maximum amount of fruits with optimum fruitshape.
- Shorter harvest period: good pollination leads to more uniform and often earlier fruit ripening resulting in shorter harvest periods, saving money while getting to market earlier.
- Reduction of residues: more uniform ripening of high quality fruit often leads to the reduction of fungicides against e.g. fruit rot.