From National Rural New, Australia. Written by Clint Jasper
Fears about pests and diseases that could wipe out bee populations have the almond industry racing to develop new, self-pollinating varieties of trees.
The push is being led by researchers at the University of Adelaide, and in addition to self-pollination, they are also trying to breed higher yielding trees with better taste, nutrition and disease resistance.
The Nonpariel tree is the most widely grown variety in Australia, and the benchmark for measuring improvement in new varieties.
The project which has been running for several years now has three major trial sites along the River Murray in South Australia, and the leader of the breeding program, Dr Michelle Wirthensohn says by 2016 growers will have commercial access to the new
“We’ve produced the mother trees, and they have to reach a certain size before we can start taking buds off them.”
Australia’s horticulture industry has serious concerns for some time now about what impact an incursion of the varroa mite will have on Australian bee populations.
Almonds are just one of many horticultural commodities completely dependent on bees for pollination.
Overseas the varroa mite has devastated apiary industries, and many Australian authorities and industry bodies are preparing for an incursion in Australia.
Dr Wirthensohn says a self-pollinating tree was found occurring naturally in Italy, and researchers here have successfully bred the trait into experimental trees