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Bee pollination: the key to yield increase for many crops (coffee, apple & avocado case studies)


Bee pollinating flowers to improve crop yield

Pollination is an essential process that enables the reproduction of many plant species. Bee pollination has a significant impact on crop yield and is essential to ensure the productivity and sustainability of our agricultural systems. The impact of bee pollination on crop yield can be significant. In fact, it is estimated that bee pollination is responsible for one-third of the world's food supply. Without bees, many of the crops that we rely on for food would not be able to produce fruit or seeds, leading to a significant reduction in yield.


Coffee

Studies have shown that bee pollination can significantly increase coffee yield. One study conducted in South India found that pollination by bees increases coffee fruit production by 50% over that achieved by wind (1). Another study conducted in Costa Rica found that bee and bird pollination increased the yield of coffee plants by up to 25 percent.(2)

Studies have shown that bee pollination can significantly increase the yield of robusta coffee plants, with some estimates suggesting a 30% boost in yield. Research by David Roubik at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (3) shows bee pollination is much more important than farmers thought. He found that bees consistently increased coffee yields by around 36%. In some cases they boosted production by more than 50%. David Roubik also found that those coffee plants visited by insects bore fruit that was 7% heavier on average than that produced by plants protected from insect company. More specifically, plants visited solely by African honey bees showed a weight increase of 25%.


Apple

Studies have shown that bee pollination can significantly increase apple yield. One study showed that high-quality colonies increased fruit set by 15% (increasing production quantity), seed set and fruit sugar content, and subsequently farmeŕs profits by 70% (4). One study found that insects are vital for apple production in the UK, contributing £36.7 million per year and impacting both quantity and quality. Specifically, insect pollination can increase UK output by up to £5.7 million per year for Gala apples (5). Bee pollination not only increases apple yield, but it also contributes to the quality of the fruit. When apple trees are properly pollinated, the fruit is more uniform in size and has a better shape and color. Proper pollination also ensures that the fruit develops evenly, resulting in a more consistent flavor profile.


Avocado

While avocado flowers are self-pollinating to some extent, they rely heavily on bees and other pollinators for successful fruit production.

A study conducted in Australia found that honeybees are the most efficient pollinators for avocado crops. Results showed that placing three beehives per hectare led to a productivity increase of 20 to 38% compared to no hives. (6)

One study in Kenya showed that avocado relies heavily on insect pollinators, with significantly lower fruit set rates observed for self- and wind-pollinated (17.4%) or self-pollinated flowers (6.4%) compared to insect-pollinated flowers (89.5%). Additionally, insect pollination led to the production of heavier seeds and higher oil content, suggesting that insect pollination positively impacts both the fruit's seed yield and oil quantity. The study also found that honey bee supplementation increased avocado fruit weight by 18% more than control farms.(7)

Bee pollination not only increases avocado yield, but it also contributes to the quality of the fruit. When avocado trees are properly pollinated, the fruit is more uniform in size and has a better shape and texture.


In conclusion, bee pollination plays a crucial role in increasing various crop yields and ensuring the quality of the fruit. The decline in bee populations due to various factors poses a significant threat to the productivity and sustainability of crop production. Implementing bee-friendly practices and supporting bee populations is crucial to ensuring the continued production of many crops and maintaining the livelihoods of growers.


 

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