Opinion: Chile's avocado pollination concerns - FreshFruitPortal.com

Opinion: Chile's avocado pollination concerns

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Opinion: Chile's avocado pollination concerns

By Chilean Hass Avocado Committee operations manager Ricardo Waissbluth.

Much is known about the task of bees in pollination, but are they given due importance when it comes to our avocado orchards?  We need to keep various observations in mind when it comes to the pollination period and have a determined number of hives per hectare.

1. For the location of avocado plantations in our country in the IV (Coquimbo) and VI (O'Higgins) regions, it's common that the slopes where the plantations are and their surrounds do not have the additional vegetation to provide floration where bees can go. So we can conclude that in general, avocadoes are planted in zones that don't have an aptitude in honey.

This is important because hives are usually leased and it is vital that they come in good condition with full colonies.

2. As the period of pollination occurs at the same time as the different plantations, which often happens, those who rent can be overwhelmed to complete their requirements, and it doesn't always end with hives in the best condition.

3. I think it's important that farms, depending on their size, have trained staff in the management of bees, as they are usually leased and its necessary from their arrival to review each hive. A simple method for the first review, but not the most important, is to raise each one of the hives to verify its weight. A complete colony should be 25kg (55lbs) to 30kg (66lbs).

Once installed you should check the entry and exit of bees through the entrance, where a colony in good condition should have a constant entry and exit of its workers after searching for flowers to pollinate.

Another method is to open the hive and revise a few of the frames to see if they are complete or nearing completion, and the ideal amount is 10 per hive. When opening the hive you have to also check that there are a few drones, as finding a high population of these means the queen is very old and therefore her stance does not give rise to workers that work, and the drones as their name indicates do not do any work.

This is because a new queen mates with a drone only once in her life, possibly twice, and through this method the drone provides sperm to the queen that are deposited in a bag or spermatheca. It's this way that the Queen, through her eggs combined with the sperm, gives birth to workers, but when this stops she only gives birth to drones.

In modern hives it has been established, through international conventions, that when queens are born there is a little sticker placed on their back for each year. For example if a queen has the color green and that corresponds to the year 2010, she is one. Thus, you have an easy method of testing the age of the queen and therefore the quality of the hive.

4. In larger projects there are some producers starting with their own apiaries. In these cases, due to the typical scarcity of vegetation on these slopes, it's recommended that in addition to avocado plantations you put diverse plants that allow to increase the floration period, which in turn gives the bees a support that goes beyond the flowering of avocadoes.

Another precaution that needs to be taken into account is when apiaries are your own, you have to worry about leaving families with a sufficient quantity of honey in reserve so they can pass normally through the winter period. If the honey is not sufficient it will be necessary to feed families artificially, for which there is more than one method and more than one product.

5. It is known that bees need a minimum temperature to go out to work, which is situated around 9°C (48.2°F), under which there will be no flights and therefore no pollination. This shows the importance of the location of hives in your orchard. You should always chose an area where hives are exposed to sunlight, ideally from early in the morning.

It's also important that bee hives are near water, which is vital for their maintenance.

6. A final point I would like to make is the importance of always placing hives on benches that seperate them from the soil so as to prevent access for ants, other insects or rodents that could be introduced to the hive. Ants are particularly harmful.

www.freshfruitportal.com/ Chilean Hass Avocado Committee

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