One of the things I tell people who ask about bees is that in this country, bees pollinate 100 percent of the almonds we grow.

And almonds, I add with only a slight flourish in my tone, are California’s number one agricultural export.

It won’t happen anytime soon, but one of these days, I may have to change my tune.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia are working on developing a self-pollinating almond tree, one that would put the honeybee out of that particular business. With all of the scrambling that almond growers have to do to get beehives for their almond crops each year, you can be sure that almond growers in California are paying attention.

The National Rural News of Australia reports this week the researchers . . .

. . .  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 varieties. (quoted material)

Wirthensohn said they hope to have trees growing almonds by 2016. The report also includes an audio clip of Wirthensohn which is worth listening to.

The prospect of a self pollinating almond tree offers a vision of fewer beehives being trucked across America as imported pollinators. That is bound to do the bee populations on this side of the continent some good, although it wouldn’t be particularly pleasing to those beekeepers who make their living by trucking bees.

 

Key words: honeybees, almond trees, varroa, National Rural News of Australia, Michelle Wirthensohn, Nonpariel tree

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