A new method of pesticide application is on the market with the introduction of the “Flying Doctors” system by Biobest. Bumblebee pollinators are enlisted to spread microbial fungicides and insecticides to flowering crops such as strawberries and raspberries.
The system consists of an attachment to bee hives that forces the bees to walk through a pesticide powder before leaving the hive. As they visit flowers and carry out pollination, the bees are spreading the pesticides to flowers and helping control fungus and insect problems that affect developing fruit. The result is improved crop coverage using less chemical than broadcast spraying.
This same system can also be used to enhance pollination of crops by replacing the pesticides with powdered pollen. The bees carry the pollen directly to the flowers, thereby ensuring nearly 100 percent pollination and good fruit set. It's expected to save growers money as it eliminates the need for spraying or dusting the pollen by hand. This application is likely to be used on many fruit crops including apples, almonds, kiwi and cherries.
Although the present focus is on flower pests, Biobest researchers are also working on ways to combat foliage insects and diseases. The “Flying Doctors” system is currently available in the EU, but a system for Western bee species is being developed for growers in North America and Canada.
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