The wild pollinators of lucerne and how to make the most of them

Welcome!

If you want to know what you can do to protect, enhance and future proof free pollination services in your lucerne crop, then this blog is for you.

Over the coming months, bee researcher Dr Katja Hogendoorn, from the University of Adelaide, will give an overview of the most common wild pollinators found in lucerne. Every month, the focus will be on a different group of bees and in weekly blogs, we will explore what they look like, their capacity for lucerne pollination, when they are active, where they nest, what other plants they rely on and what farmers can do to enhance these bees in their crop.

Leafcutter bee collecting pollen on lucerne (photo: Katja Hogendoorn)

 

Why should we care? Because, as explained below, lucerne seed growers benefit substantially from the free pollination services provided by wild pollinators. And because a landscape that provides healthy food for bees allows them to cope better with pests and diseases.

 

 

Wild pollinators  and their importance for lucerne seed production

The value of Australian lucerne seed production was $95 M per year in 2008. The crop relies for 100% on animal pollination. In 2014, a survey  by Lucerne Australia showed that 66% of dryland lucerne growers do not run bees and therefore rely completely on wild pollinators. According to Jenny Aitken, Executive Officer of Lucerne Australia, dryland seed production is highly variable. “In normal years about 30 – 40% of seed is produced on dryland” she says.  Thus, in a normal year, the contribution of wild pollinators lucerne seed production is worth around A$ 20 – 25 M, for dryland lucerne alone.

Value in million $A. During normal years, wild pollinators contribute A$20 – 25 M to dryland lucerne seed production.

These free pollination services are not to be sniffed at! With smart land management, these benefits can be secured and even enhanced. Over the coming weeks we’ll explore the identity and needs of wild lucerne pollinators, so lucerne growers can use the knowledge to their advantage.

Next month we will look at blue-banded bees.

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