Top local and international pollination researchers have combined forces with Australian fruit, vegetable and nut growers in a multi-million dollar effort to bolster pollinator populations and support the vibrant future of Australian horticulture.

Being co-ordinated by Horticulture Innovation Australia, with a combined $12 million commitment with Western Sydney University (WSU) and Plant Food Research (PFR) so far, Pollination Plus is a collaboration that will see more projects and research partners come online on an as-needed basis.

Horticulture Innovation Australia chief executive John Lloyd said this never-before-seen investment and allocation of resources will involve close engagement between industry and researchers throughout.

“The Pollination Plus initiative aims to safeguard the supply of Australia’s $9-billion dollar horticulture industry – including fruit, vegetable, nuts, honey and cut flowers – for years to come,” he said.

“It can be easy to take current pollination processes and practices for granted. But with growing global concern about bee health and new, exciting advancements in science, industry is now able to focus its efforts on exploring what’s impacting bees, and how we can pollinate more effectively using methods that we may have overlooked in the past.

“For example, we have found that in one studied region – the Sunraysia – avocado crops that were thought to have traditionally been pollinated by bees were in fact more reliant on flies and beetles for their pollination.”

The program will involve a multifaceted approach to strengthening pollination, bringing on board not only PFR and WSU, but also the skills of partners such as Syngenta, Bayer, Crop Life Asia and Greening Australia, to date.

Key topics of investigation will include:
  • Understanding and managing bee threats including Varroa mite, American Foulbrood and emerging viruses, and the impacts of environmental factors such as climate change and pesticide use.
  • Experimenting with non-traditional pollinators to determine which pollinators provide maximum yield and quality across a number of horticultural products.
  • Creating better conditions for pollinators, including increasing pollen and nectar on farms.
To help shape future investments, a dedicated Pollination Expert Advisory Panel has been formed, which is made up of foundation research partner representatives, and representatives from Beechworth Honey, Costa Group, Select Harvest, Graeme Smith Consulting and Fruit Growers Tasmania.

The panel will provide expert advice on new investments and broad oversight into all aspects of the research program to ensure all Pollination Plus projects achieve set objectives. For more details on Pollination Plus, including members of the advisory panel, go to the Horticulture Innovation Australia website.