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Whiting said.


He has found that using an electrostatic orchard sprayer to pollinate tree fruit works well. The electrostatic feature is important


because it positively charges the pollen which aids in its attraction to the negatively charged stigma. This feature helps to overcome the challenge of depositing the tiny pollen grains on the small stigma and getting them to stick to the stigma surface. In his studies,


entire trees were bagged before


flowering to prevent access by bees.


A pollen- containing solution was sprayed


SUSAN MCIVER Matt Whiting


through the netting to opening flowers inside and the resulting fruit set


compared to a naturally pollinated control.


One application using an electrostatic sprayer resulted in a 15 per cent higher fruit set in a cherry orchard. In an apple orchard, fruit set was over 50 per cent higher compared to natural pollination.


Challenges include not only getting the pollen to the stigma but also loss of pollen viability in liquid.


“Also our vision isn’t considered ‘green’,” Whiting said.


‘Green’ methodologies are favoured by funding agencies.


Regarding the pollen suspension, Whiting and colleagues have learned that the pollen must be pure and it can be kept alive for one hour without loss of germinability.


“In future orchard systems, precision pollination will lead to consistent balanced cropping,” Whiting said. Other researchers are working on the use of microrobots called “Robobees” to deposit pollen by sensing female flowers.


Overseas investigations are being done on using orchard sprayers to improve fruit set in pears and applying the concept of precision pollination to vegetable crops.


British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2017 17


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