Bumblebees have been used for nearly 30 years to fertilize greenhouse tomato crops, but they are not allowed to be imported to Reunion Island. This situation forces producers to resort to manual fertilization, a costly and time-consuming process.
But the situation is about to change thanks to researchers who have developed a new pollination method with a wild bee called the xylocopa fenestrata.
ARMEFLHOR (Association for the Modernization of the Fruit, Vegetable and Horticultural Economy of Reunion Island) has developed, in partnership with CIRAD, a pollination method with the xylocopa fenestrata, a species that is native of the island and also known as the charcoal fly due to its color.
The tests conducted on seven farms of the island show yields that are 20 to 30% higher than with manual fertilization, as well as better calibers and quality. “With this insect, the flowers turn into fruit, much like in metropolitan France with the use of bumblebees,” explains Jean-Sébastien Cottineau, in charge of experimentation at ARMEFLHOR. “Concretely, we have a fertilization rate of 90%, sometimes even more in some areas, despite the succession of overcast days.”