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“Who Needs Bees?” Says Inventor Of Mechanical Pollinating
Matthew Whiting is busy as a bee, pollinating apple and cherry orchards at Washington State University with a first-of-its-kind mechanical pollinator. He can increase a tree’s fruit set from 10 to 30 percent.
  “We are still trying to refine the system, but results have been promising,” says Whiting. “Our impact depends on the variety and on the amount of natural pollination. This year we had great conditions for bee activity so our system only increased fruit set by an average of 15 percent.”
  The system uses purified pollen in a filtered liquid suspension and sprays it on flowering fruit trees with an electrostatic sprayer. The contrasting electrical charges of the flower stigma and the pollen-loaded droplets attract each other to ensure pollination.
  This year Whiting did two applications on trees that were covered with insect netting to keep out bees. He says mechanical pollination produced commercial level crops that were as good as natural fruit set.
  Whiting says there is still much to be learned before the product is introduced commercially. “We’ve learned that when a flower opens, the stigma may only be receptive to pollen for a day or less,” says Whiting. “We need to know when to apply, at what stage of bloom, and when the highest percent of receptive flowers are in blossom.”
  Once system testing has been completed, Whiting is confident it will become available quickly. “Our process has been to partner with companies from the beginning, so when the system is ready to go, they will be ready to make it available to growers.”
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Matt Whiting, WSU-IAREC, 24106 N. Bunn Rd., Prosser, Wash. 99350 (ph 509 786-9260; mdwhiting@wsu.edu).

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2017 - Volume #41, Issue #5