Commercial pollination services
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CTA. 2007. Commercial pollination services. Rural Radio Resource Pack 07/2. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57432
A Zimbabwean beekeeper rents her beehives to farmers to improve the pollination of their crops.
Commercial pollination services Cue: Like people and animals, plants generally need contact with another, similar plant in order to produce offspring. In the case of flowering plants, the offspring are of course the seeds, sometimes contained within larger fruit. Plants fertilise each other through their pollen, which forms in the flower. Insects, such as bees, are attracted to the sugars in flower nectar, but as they move from flower to flower, they pick up tiny grains of pollen, stuck to their legs or bodies. These pollen grains drop into other flowers they visit, fertilising them. Pollen can also be spread on the wind, but when large numbers of insects are present, rates of pollination will also be much higher, and so will be the harvest. For this reason some commercial farmers are ready to pay to have bees kept in their fields. This is a completely different way for beekeepers to earn an income. In this situation, the bees may not produce much honey, but the bee-keeper will be paid by the farmer for the pollination services that the bees provide. In Zimbabwe, for example, beekeeper Judy Ross is paid 50 US cents per hive per day, and may rent over 100 hives to a single farmer for as much as 9 months of the year. Busani Bafana spoke to Judy about her pollination business, and began by asking just how much of a difference bees can make to a farmer?s crop yields. IN: ?On a commercial site ? OUT: ?been purely for pollination.? DUR?N: 4?54? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Judy Ross, a Zimbabwean bee-keeper who rents her bee hives to farmers, to improve crop pollination and thereby increase their yields. The interview comes from a radio resource pack produced by CTA. Transcript Ross On a commercial site you can expect up to 40% increase in the yield of your crop, but for everything you will get an increased crop. Bafana I take it then that a different crop will need a different number of hives? Ross That is correct yes. Depending on the crop, like say for instance runner beans, runner beans need two hives per hectare, but something like your lucerne, alfalfa, would need up to 4 to 5 hives per hectare. Bafana In a rural setting where farmers are growing maize and maybe leaf vegetables is it then important that they should have a specific number of hives per certain hectarage of land? Ross Maize would probably be about two hives per hectare, but most of the communal people do under-sow to things like pumpkins and the bees would still pollinate those as well. But I would say for a normal person in the communal areas that two hives for their working area would probably be adequate. Bafana Say a farmer wanted to actually move the hives to a new farm, what is a good practice for doing so? Ross First of all he would have to go and look at the area that he was moving it to. He would need to clear a small area around where he was siting his hives, so that the incidence of ants and trees and grasses would not interfere with the flight path of the bees going in and out. Then he would have to check on the access to a water source, whether it be a natural water source or a dripping tap and also check on the direction of the sunrise and set. Bees normally like to face the rising sun and also where the prevailing wind is so that when they come in laden they are actually carried into the hive. Bafana You talked about the whole issue of the siting. What about the presence of an open space or where there are trees, does that matter? Ross Not particularly providing the bees are actually facing into the crop that they are going to pollinate or they are in the middle of the crop that they are going to pollinate. It would be better that they were in the centre or on the edge rather than have a bunch of trees hindering them before they get to the crop to pollinate. Bafana What about if the hives are located near the homestead, could that interfere? Ross Not really providing that the owners of the homesteads and their children know not to disturb the bees; because normally bees will not hurt anyone unless they are bothered or upset. Bafana Say now the farmer has actually found a good site and they have gone ahead to actually prepare to move the bees, when should the bees then be introduced and how long will the bees need for them to stay with the crop to achieve effective pollination? Ross Pollination for a communal person is actually very much more difficult. My advice would be rather to have the owner of the property who requires pollination to have the bees on site throughout the whole year, rather than take your bees there, pick them up and bring them back. Bees do not like being moved short distances. So it is better to actually leave the bees within the area that they are going to be pollinating and if possible make the owner of the property responsible for looking after your bees. Bafana Say there is a need for the farmer to move the bees, are there any precautions that they should take? Ross Most definitely. Bee-keeping and most of the bee removals should be done at night for a very sound reason. During the day if anyone upsets the bees there are humans and animals which could be attacked by bees who might have got very upset when you have actually picked up and moved the hive. But at night all the bees are in the hives and if you went along and sealed up the entrance with a rag or something and then picked up the box and moved it to wherever it was needed and then removed the rag, there would be less problems and less incidence of upset bees. Bafana I want to move into marketing, what kinds of farmers are interested in using bees for pollination, as you offer that service? Ross It is people who do export, it is people who are in a marginal area and for some reason feel that they are not getting the full potential from their crops. Bees will then definitely push up the production. Bafana For a farmer interested in the transition, say, moving from a communal scale into commercial scale, what type of investment are we looking at? Ross It would depend entirely as to who he has approached for pollination and what their hectarage was, because that would then tell you how many hives you would need to start off with. If you were doing a rotation of a crop that basically went on for most of the year, bar three months, and the crop size was maybe 30 hectares total, you would probably need 120 hives. Bafana Does the beekeeper normally keep or even sell their honey when the bees are used for pollination? Ross If there is any honey from pollination the honey belongs to the beekeeper, but most of the crops that I have pollinated have had no honey at all. It has been purely for pollination. End of track