TN Scientist Finds Success in Hand Pollination
Hand Pollination – Honey bees gather flower nectar and store it in wax combs for use as food over the winter to feed developing larvae and adults. The species present in India that can be domesticated in boxes include Apis Cerana Indica or Indian hive bee, Apis mellifera or European bee, and Melipona Iridipennis or stingless bee. Rock bees and tiny bees, Apis florea and Apis dorsata, are natural species. In India, you can also find carpenter bees and bumblebees.
Around the world, 75% of food crops are somewhat dependent on animal pollinators, mainly insects. Pollination is facilitated by beekeeping, which also boosts crop output, but natural pollinators are equally crucial to the pollination process.
But due to human activities like extensive agriculture, pesticide usage, and climate change, the number and variety of wild pollinators are declining globally. The negative effects of urbanization also affect bees.
There have been alarming tales of bee colonies collapsing suddenly out of nowhere since at least 2006. The previous few decades have seen an increase in reports of species extinctions, but the bee extinction scenario is particularly concerning for the future of humanity.
A group of farmers in Tenkasi, Tamilnadu, bore the pain of this creeping extinction.
For-profit hand pollination
A group of farmers in Tenkasi made the decision to intervene when the availability of sunflower oil decreased throughout the nation. The farmers opted to speed up output after growing sunflowers for a while in order to keep up with market demand.
The blooms were developing slowly, though.
They noticed a decline in the quantity of bees buzzing about their farms. Farmers rely on bees, who are natural pollinators, for pollination and flower development.
Since a few years ago, scientists have raised the alarm about the global loss in bee numbers, blaming pesticide use and climate change. Other factors contributing to their decline can be climate change-related temperature increases, monocultures, and intensive agricultural techniques. This impacts crop output as well as nutrition.
The farmers in Tenkasi, however, managed to “bee-at” the odds and produce an abundance of crops. How? by hand pollination (manual means). They assert that doing so not only promotes flower growth but also produces higher-quality seeds.
He learned from talking to other farmers that they shared the same problem. Therefore, the issue was brought before the district’s agricultural officers. They taught the farmers how to hand pollinate plants in cooperation with a few scientists from the Horticulture College and Research Institute in Periyakulam.
The procedure has been used for a number of years, according to one of the scientists, K Suresh, but it has not been extensively used because of the substantial amount of human labour needed.
How does hand pollination take place?
Farmers touch the capitulum of sunflowers using a soft cloth to gather pollen, which is then applied to other blooms to manually pollinate crops. Alternately, they delicately rub the faces of two neighbouring flowers. Mid-flowering is the time to do this (58-60 days after planting for long-duration varieties, and 45-48 days for short-duration varieties).
The scientists advise doing it between 9 and 11 am, when pollen shedding is at its peak.
Farmers can now use this technique for their sunflowers and gain from it.