Artificial Pollination
1 October 2018

Artificial Pollination of kiwifruit is becoming a huge business with the cost of artificial pollen ballooning every year. Pollination 2018 looks to be no exception with the early pollen for G3 possibly going as high as $5000 per kg.

My main concern with this is that there is very little scientific evidence to prove that artificial pollination works and delivers results that justify the hyped prices that you spend on it.

I liken it to buying insurance. Good insurance agents work on guilt in this case and the fear that if you don't have it something bad will happen and you will lose your assets or your livlihood. The neighbour does it so you should also because you might be missing out and he or she might know something that you don't. In the end the driving urge is that you have to have it at all costs otherwise failure is inevitable.

Really, when there are no hard facts to say that if you apply 250gms of artificial pollen per hectare you will get such and such increased export fruit, isn't this just a gamble based on very little.

Certainly artificial pollination can be justified when you have poor sychronisation between male and female flowers or where your males are limited and have low vigour due to PSA.

It is a known fact that kiwifruit don't lend themselves to easy pollination. Both flowers produce no nectar. GA only requires 100 seeds to make an export fruit and requires only 6-7 bee visits to be pollinated. However female flowers are only viable for 2-3 days and if these days are cold and wet the odds are even more limited. HW requires 800 plus seeds to produce an export quality fruit and needs at least 40 bee visits for pollination. But on the positive side the female flower is viable for up to 8 days.

All this aside. If you are spending $5000 per kg of dry pollen you want to have some guarantee that the machine running around your orchard applying pollen ( that you can't see ) is going in the right place.

The right place is the stigma of the female flower. To date most methods of doing this have been less than efficient and very hard to quantify.  Hopefully as time goes on the level of sophistication and accuracy will improve on artificial pollination and growers will have greater peace of mind that the money they are spending will be quaranteeing tangible results.

If you have a good ratio of healthy male to female vines, ample bee hives, good flowering sychronisation and fine weather, it would be hard to argue that you also need artificial pollination.

Still if the urge to put some pollen on does take over the evidence shows that there is very little to be gained by increasing rates but rather little and often is far more effective.





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