Pollinator grant to bear fruit for avo growers

The federal Government is investing $510,788 in research that could help improve fertilisation of Australia’s avocados by unlocking more of what we know about pollinators.

Minister for Agriculture, Senator Bridget McKenzie, said the Western Australian-based project would use innovative methods to identify insect pollinators, how well they pollinate avocado flowers and whether they pollinate across a whole orchard.

“This project has the potential to boost Australia’s $483 million avocado industry and our $11 billion horticultural sector more broadly by identifying ways to optimise pollination,”  McKenzie said.

“Pollination is a critical issue for the sustainability and productivity of avocados as they’re dependent on insect pollination, as are other varieties of perennial horticulture and annual crops as well as some native vegetation.

“Given the ongoing threat that varroa mite, a parasite that kills their honey bee hosts—the main insect pollinator used in Australian agriculture—could find its way to Australia we need to make sure we have other pollination strategies up our sleeves.

“While this work focusses on the avocado industry in south west Western Australia, it will build our knowledge around pollinators, not just bees, and give industry ideas about how to boost their numbers and efficacy.

“Adaptive management practices might include enhancement of habitat and other resources required by pollinators and improved use of pesticides to reduce negative impacts on pollinators, resulting in improved fruit set and productivity.

“Positive outcomes for avocados are expected to be matched by native flora and fauna benefits.”

The West Australian avocado industry produced 25,617 tonnes in 2018/19—almost a third of Australia’s production of 85,546 tonnes.

The $510,788 grant for South West Catchments Council represents an Australian Government investment under the $57.5 million Smart Farming Partnerships program.