Research Programme Background (2016-2019)

Ecological intensification (EI) is an important concept in rehabilitating degraded ecosystems. It is management using ecological principles applied to reconstituting biodiversity and facets of ecosystem functionality. EI is being applied to agoecosystems around the world. For sustainable food and fibre production, pollination has been targeted for EI by international and national initiatives. Most have stressed reconstitution of pollinator habitats for reestablishing functionality of pollination as a crucial ecosystem service. The IUBS Programme, initiated in 2013 EI 3 took the ideas into a specific agroecosystem, coffee production and expanded that into crop protection and production through using managed pollinators to disseminate biological control agents for control of insect and fungal pests on coffee. Field studies in Brazil and Mexico were hampered by factors beyond the control of the investigators (e.g. funding delays and recently drought), but were coupled with successful IUBS programme sponsored webinars and publications as well as major private sector developments. Thus, the programme of the first triennium has added to modest advances for coffee, but major advances in the technology for use on small and tender fruit, greenhouse crops, oilseed crops, orchard health and managed pollinator health. The expanding interest in using managed pollinators for simultaneously boosting crop yields, quality and storability has eventuated, in part, through the IUBS programme. Indeed, there is now a growing scientific awareness of the potential for the technology and now private sector companies (Canada, Belgium, Finland) are using the concepts and technology commercially. Partners from academic, government and private sectors are willing to help this programme develop further. The Finnish government already helps growers to use the technology,
as developed in Finland, with financial incentives! In short, there is now serious follow-up interest
internationally (as listed), for similar R & D initiatives.

The Arthur Dobbs Institute (ADI) proposes to expand its activities to embrace pollination and
biological control of pests in the broader context of Ecological Intensification (EI) in agricultural
ecosystems with more insect-pollinated crops and cropping systems. ADI with its team will become
more involved in education, R & D, and outreach by working with interested partners (academic,
governmental, public, societal, and private) to explain and demonstrate the use of managed pollinators
for crop protection and production as a positive and profitable example of ecological intensification.

Articles published on this topic

Kevan PG, L Shipp, VG Thomas (2014): What’s the buzz? Using pollinators for crop protection.
International Innovation 125 (January): 9-11.

Smagghe G, V Mommaerts, H Hokkanen, I Menzler-Hokkanen (2012): Multitrophic Interactions:
The Entomovector Technology. In: Smagghe G and I Diaz (Eds.): Arthropod-Plant Interactions:
Novel Insights and Approaches for IPM
. Progress in Biological Control 14: 127 – 157.

Kevan PG, JP Kapongo, MS Al-mazra’awi, L Shipp (2008): Honey bees, bumble bees, and
biocontrol: New alliances between old friends. In: RR James and TL Pitts-Singer (Eds.): Bee
Pollination in Agricultural Ecosystems
. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. pp. 65 -79.

Research Programme Background (2012-2015)

Coffee is the 2nd most traded commodity internationally after oil and  occupies large areas of plantations and small farms throughout the tropics. Production issues range from soil fertility, agrochemicals, plant pests/diseases, benefits of insect (bee) pollination, use of biological control agents. The scientific literature on the benefits of bee pollination for coffee is convincing. Robusta requires cross-pollination by wind and insects; without the latter yields are lower. Arabica is self-fertile but bee pollination enhances quantity and quality of yield. Managed pollinators, e.g. honeybees are not usually deployed, even though shown to increase yields and produce honey while doing so. Wild bees are commoner closer to forest patches than in centres of plantations where yields are less. Coffee plants in given areas bloom together and over a short time but a problem for harvest is asynchronous ripening of berries. Hand harvesting ripe berries must take place several times. Mechanical harvesting is wasteful: unripe berries are discarded or used for inferior coffee, and requires post-harvest sorting. Thus, pollination would

  1. improve yields in quantity and quality, and
  2. may improve synchronicity and uniformity of fruit-set, so reducing harvesting and sorting costs.

The innovation of pollinator biocontrol agent vector technology adds another benefit to managed pollinators for crop production.  Not only can yields be improved, the crop can be protected from important diseases and insect pests, separately or simultaneously, as demonstrated on crops as diverse as greenhouse vegetables, tender fruit, and some field crops. This technology seems applicable to coffee, which suffers from similar diseases and pests as other crops. The pollinator biocontrol agent dispensing system uses pesticide-free material and can be registered “organic”. Thus, growers who may embrace the proposed system could enjoy added benefits through higher certification and prices.

Our project is to develop an integrated system of pollinator management to enhance coffee production through better, more synchronous pollination, coupled with pollinator disseminated anti-pest and anti-disease biocontrol agents.

Articles published on that topic

Kevan PG and VA Wojcik (2007): Pollinator Services. In: D. I. Jarvis, C. Paddoch & H. D. Cooper (Editors): Managing Biodiversity in Agricultural Ecosystems. Columbia University Press. pp. 200 -223.

Kevan PG, JP Kapango, MS Al-mazra’awi, L Shipp (2008): Honey bees, bumble bees, and biocontrol: New alliances between old friends. In: R. R. James & T. L. Pitts-Singer (Editors): Bee Pollination in Agricultural Ecosystems. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.  pp. 65 -79.

Thomas VG and PG Kevan (2012): Insect pollination: Commodity values, trade and policy considerations using coffee as an example. Journal of Pollination Ecology 7(2): 5-15.