An innovative bee delivery system that builds up the natural immunity of plants to various fungal diseases, including botrytis, a global threat to fresh fruit and vegetables, is to be introduced to the UK at Agri-TechE’s online event ‘Feel the Buzz’ on 26th April 2022.
Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-TechE, comments: “Insects perform a range of services as pollinators and natural predators. There is much discussion of falling numbers, but we are reviewing technologies such as AI and acoustics that can enhance their effectiveness and utility whilst discussing ways that producers can overcome the shortage.”
Botrytis can have a devasting impact on the yield of strawberries and other crops. It enters the plant through its flowers or wounds and lays dormant until the conditions are moist, or the plant is weakened. The grey mould spreads quickly in warm, damp conditions, so undercover crops are particularly vulnerable.
Canadian company Bee Vectoring Technology (BVT) uses commercially reared bumblebees to deliver a beneficial fungus that boosts the plant’s immune system, increasing its resilience to botrytis. A tiny amount, just one teaspoon of active ingredient per acre, is delivered directly to the flowers of strawberries while they are being pollinated by the bumblebees, which protects them from infection.
Ashish Malik, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BVT, will be speaking at the event. Previously the VP of Global Marketing for Biologics at Bayer CropScience, where he was responsible for advancing its strategy to develop integrated crop solutions that include biological products together with traditional chemical products, Ashish sees potential for the bee vectors to deliver a range of products.
He says: “Bee Vectoring is an innovative all-natural system which helps produce a better berry crop – including higher yields and better shelf life – all without the use of chemicals. The application of the plant protection product using bees does not use water, and does not require heavy machinery, so no fossil fuels are used either. It is a breakthrough environmental system which is giving excellent results.”
BVT uses both honeybees and bumblebees, with the former optimised for open fields, whilst the latter tend to be a better option indoors and for certain outdoor crops. Bumblebees can carry more powder, fly in colder temperatures, require no maintenance and have hives that last longer (6-10 weeks, their natural life cycle).
Ashish Malik will be speaking alongside Tasha Tucker, CEO of Olombria; Casey Woodward, CEO of AgriSound; Eric Hewitson, BDM of Wyld Networks; and Richard Rogers, Principal Scientist at Bayer. The discussion will include how to encourage pollinators, enhance their efficiency and even harness them to do additional jobs. The event takes place online on Tuesday 26th April.