German study finds bee pollination improves yield, color and shelf life

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German study finds bee pollination improves yield, color and shelf life

Researchers from Göttingen University in Germany have found bee pollination goes a long way in improving the market value of strawberries, due to greater firmness and a redder color, along with higher yields and weight. strawberry_21483199 small

The paper, published in the Royal Society Journal this month, involved a study where nine commercially important strawberry varieties were planted, comparing the effects of bee pollination to wind-pollinated and self-pollinated fruit.

"On average, bee pollination increased the commercial value per fruit by 38.6% compared with wind pollination and by 54.3% compared with self-pollination," the report said.

The scientists concluded that out of the 1.5 million metric tons (MT) of strawberries sold in the European Union in 2009, bee pollination contributed US$1.12 billion to the US$2.9 billion sales total.

In bee-pollinated strawberries the majority of fruit met grade one standards with improved weight and shape compared to the other test strawberries, which had high proportions of non-marketable fruit.

"Bee-pollinated fruits were on average 11.0% heavier than wind-pollinated and 30.3% heavier than self-pollinated fruits."

The higher firmness that came with the bee-pollinated strawberries led to 12 hours extra shelf life when compared to wind-pollinated fruit, and more than 26 hours extra shelf life compared to self-pollinated fruit.

"After 4 days in storage, only 29.4% of the wind-pollinated fruits and none self-pollinated fruit were still marketable, whereas, at the same time, 40.4% of the bee-pollinated fruits remained in a marketable condition."

The researchers said the results suggested that comprehensive analyses of the benefits of pollination for animal-dependent crops could raise estimates of the ecosystem service's value.

"Pollination appears to be economically much more important than previously recognized and needs better support through adequate agricultural management and policy."

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