Farmers are abuzz as the Government promises to invest almost $5 million into developing mechanical pollination in a bid to secure Australia's food supply into the future.
Key crops will receive a pollination boost under a new research project that investigates novel technology and practices for optimising pollination in protected cropping environments.
In some parts of the world, bee populations have fallen by a third, with phenomena ranging from the spread of the varroa mite to climate change identified for blame.
Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie said the program would help put cutting edge research and technology into the hands of farmers.
"Investing in pollination now is vital to securing Australia's food supply."
The $4.7 million dollar grant, awarded by the Department of Agriculture, aims to improve and advance innovative methods of mechanical pollination - a technique that can be used to pollinate plants when bees are not around.
The grant will also help to improve the performance of honeybees under covers.
Hort Innovation Research and Development Manager for Pollination, Ashley Zamek, said the project aims to increase the productivity and profitability of pollination-dependent crops grown under protected cropping systems.
"We will use our scientific expertise and strong connections with industry partners to develop new mechanical pollination methods, improve plant reproduction and increase the effectiveness of insect vectors and pollination under covers," she said.
The methods developed are expected to benefit all pollination-dependent cropping systems in the fruit and vegetable seed industries, with a combined worth of over 2.4 billion per annum in Australia.
"Protected cropping covers over three million hectares of crops globally to increase the reliability or duration of production," Ms Zamek said.
"In addition to protection from extreme weather, covers are also advantageous as they can prevent foreign pollen contamination that results in reduced yields or undesirable hybrids in seed production."
The collaborative research project will bring lead researchers across Australia together with significant commercial growers, private industry groups, government and peak industry bodies.
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