30 Oct 2015

Detailed research plan for the triennium 2016-2019

Recently the role of pollinating insects in crop production is being taken largely far more seriously than in the recent past. Pollinator management is at the forefront of many international, national and local initiatives. Similarly, the role of beneficial organisms in agricultural pest management is now better recognized than in the recent past. This project combines both those ecosystem services for crop production and protection.

Our Action plan for the "AgroEcosystems: Managed Pollinators" programme can also be downloaded in tabular form (pdf).

The project will commence with a small workshop during which the research team (identified above) will come together to plan the scope and locations of activities. The successes and problems encountered by the first triennium’s work (2013-2015) will be assessed and used for guidance. Following that, it expected that a number of projects will be initiated with and without support from the commercial sector. That workshop will also be preliminary to, and preparatory for, the promotion of this project’s concepts and goals to the broad membership of the agricultural industry in 2016 -2017. We intend to hold further collaborative workshops with the various grower organisations (horticultural, greenhouse, managed pollinator service providers, oilseed producers, etc.) in all three years of the programme. At those events we will outline the objectives and progress of the project to organisational representatives and to others interested in the socio-economics of food and fibre production.

The workshops of 2016-2017 will enable us to identify organisations with which to work, with which governmental and academic bodies, and with which growers. The workshops held through the first triennium (2013-2016) allowed exactly that success, especially with respect to coffee production and protection. In some counties, it is critical to associate with prominent governmental agencies to support applied research, to be able to recruit an extensive body of pollination researchers with whom to partner. At present, Canada, Finland, Brazil, Mexico are leading nations in terms of these last two criteria. Other countries have interested expertise that has expressed serious interest in participating in this project. In some countries, private sector interests are also being tapped (e.g. Canada, Belgium, Spain, Finland). In 2016, we will also identify potential graduate students in the host nations and/or organisations who would undertake the field research needed for proof-of-concept on crops not yet tested and in places where trials have not been conducted.

Already extensive “in office” analyses for various crops and their potential for application of the technology have been made by BVT Inc. (Canada). They may be made available to ADI for strategic planning as in-kind support for this programme. As part of action stemming from the organisational workshop in Year 1 (2016) will be the continuation and initiation of projects (e.g. continuing in Canada, Finland, Brazil, Mexico, UK ; initiated but not yet funded in Norway, Colombia, Serbia ; and initiation by project proposal development and submission in USA, Spain, and possibly Kenya, Ghana, Israel and Jordan). Thus, the first to second year of the project will entail site visits to selected countries to confirm progress in on-going projects and to initiate new projects wherever they will take place. It is vital to ensure that in each selected site there is a capacity for managed pollinator husbandry, such as for honey- or bumble-bees (or the ability to create it). The use of globally-similar bee hives facilitates the attachment and use of the bio-vectoring technology to transfer disease and pest controlling agents to crop flowers. At each site, we will determine how to deploy control and experimental treatment operations to achieve well-replicated, statistically-robust data sets for analysis. At this stage of the project, the collaboration of growers, university researchers and graduate students, and governmental research departments is critical.

During year two, we will also submit funding applications various international, national, regional organizations (funding agencies and foundations) that support sustainable agriculture and innovations in agricultural productivity. Running parallel to the applied R & D will be an emphasis on information and education (in both printed and electronic media) in cooperation with the national and international grower organisations and other bodies. A vital part of this is creating within the grower communities an understanding of the biovectoring technology using managed pollinators and the capacity to deploy it successfully.

Years 2-3 will be the collection of the data from the control and experimental sites and their analysis. This will give the more strength as to how effective managed pollinators are in augmenting pollination, achieving a greater synchronicity of crop harvesting, and distributing disease/pest control agents to crop plants and flowers. As funding allows, we intend to operate this programme in differing types of cropping systems (conventional to organic, small to large farm) so that the management and geographic scales of production can be examined. Thus the success of pollination by managed bees and the reduction of diseases/pests by biovectored control agents can be measured in open-sun large-scale monocultures to smaller-scale and polycultural systems. Similarly, as funding allows, we will compare the success of the proposed programme in regions (or countries) where different climate and growing conditions prevail, and might influence the contributions of managed bees.

A critical aspect of this project deals with the underlying socio-economics at the level of the growers. The project has not only to be biologically successful, but must also be able to improve the economic returns to growers, both directly in terms of the yield and quality of the crop harvested, and indirectly, as when crops that are grown consistent with this programme’s criteria qualify for a higher rank of certification, and so sell at intrinsically higher prices. We will conduct an economic analysis of this venture, factoring in the costs of inputs, such as the costs of establishing and maintaining managed bee colonies, the biovectored disease control agents and their application, savings from reduced conventional chemical applications, contributions of managed pollinators to other economicallyvaluable crops in non-target-crop flowering seasons, savings from reduced unripe produce at harvest, gains in prices from a greater quantity and quality of produce, gains from potentially a higher certification status, and costs of learning how to use the new technology, to mention a few criteria.

 

Action plan for the triennium 2012-2015

To date, any role of pollinating insects in coffee production has been taken largely for granted, and there is no well-established commercial basis on which to start this project. On the positive side, honey bees (Apis mellifera) have co-evolved with coffee species in eastern Africa, they are in all regions where coffee is grown, and there is a defined tradition of apiculture in those coffee producing countries, if not in the coffee growing areas.           

The project will commence with the promotion of this project’s concepts and goals to the broad membership of the international coffee industry in 2013. We intend to hold a collaborative workshop with the International Coffee Organization’s (ICO’s) International Coffee Council Meeting in London during March 4-8, 2013, at which we will outline the objectives of the project to representatives of the coffee producing nations, the coffee grower organizations, the coffee certification organizations, and others representing the socio-economics of the international coffee industry. This workshop will enable us to identify which nations in which to work, with which governmental and academic bodies, and with which growers. In this regard, it is critical to associate with only those countries in which there is a prominent governmental agency to support applied research, and in which there is also an extensive academic body of pollination researchers with whom to partner. At present, Brazil and Mexico are leading nations in terms of these last two criteria. At this time, given the support of coffee producing nations and the ICO, we will apply for further, short-term, funding from the Common Fund for Commodities (ca. $100,000). This is a global funding agency affiliated with the United Nations, to fund projects in commodity production in developing nations. At this time we will also identify potential graduate students in the host nations who would undertake the field research.

The first to second year of the project will entail site visits to selected countries (e.g. Brazil, Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, Kenya, Rwanda, Viet Nam) to confirm where the projects will take place. These visits will be preceded by extensive “in office” analyses of each potential region’s coffee industry and related characteristics pertaining to the project. It is vital to ensure that in each selected site there is a capacity for honey bee apiculture, or the ability to create it. The use of globally-standardized bee hives facilitates the attachment and use of the bio-vectoring technology to transfer disease and pest controlling agents to coffee flowers. At each site, we will determine how to deploy control and experimental treatment operations to achieve well-replicated, statistically-robust data sets for analysis. At this stage of the project, the collaboration of coffee growers, university researchers and graduate students, and governmental research departments is critical. 

During year two, we will also submit funding application to the Common Fund for Commodities for longer-term (3 year) funding of the project to continue internationally, as their criteria require (ca.  $2 million). Running parallel to the applied R & D will be an emphasis on information and education (in both printed and electronic media) in cooperation with the ICO and other national bodies. A vital part of this is creating within the coffee grower communities an understanding of the biovectoring technology using apiculture and the capacity to deploy it successfully.

Years 2-3 will be the collection of the data from the control and experimental sites and their analysis. This will give the first indications of how effective managed honey bees are in augmenting pollination, achieving a greater synchronicity of fruit ripening, and distributing disease/pest control agents to coffee plants and flowers. Should funding allow, we intend to operate this project in differing types of coffee plantations so that the geographic scale of production can be examined. Thus the success of pollination by managed honey bees and the reduction of diseases/pests by biovectored control agents can be measured in open-sun large-scale coffee monocultures to smaller-scale more shaded plantations. Similarly, should funding allow, we could compare the success of the proposed project in regions (or countries) where different climate and growing conditions prevail, and might influence the contributions of managed honey bees.

A critical aspect of this project deals with the underlying socio-economics at the level of the coffee growers. The project has not only to be biologically successful, but must also be able to improve the economic returns to growers, both directly in terms of the yield and quality of the crop harvested, and indirectly, as when coffee grown consistent with this project’s criteria qualifies for a higher rank of certification, and so sells for an intrinsically higher price. We will conduct an economic analysis of this venture, factoring in the costs of inputs, such as the costs of establishing and maintaining managed honey bee colonies, the biovectored disease control agents and their application, savings from reduced conventional chemical applications, contributions of managed pollinators to other economically-valuable crops in non-coffee seasons, savings from reduced unripe coffee fruit harvest, gains in prices from a greater quantity and quality of coffee beans, and gains from potentially a higher certification status, and costs of learning how to use the new technology, to mention a few of the criteria.