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Bumble bees for agricultural pollination programs: bioprospecting Brazilian native species

Grant number: 16/21555-9
Support type:Research Grants - Innovative Research in Small Business - PIPE
Duration: October 01, 2018 - June 30, 2019
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Ecology - Applied Ecology
Principal researcher:Johanna Bajonero
Grantee:Johanna Bajonero
Company:Koppert do Brasil Sistemas Biológicos Ltda
CNAE: Horticultura
Atividades de apoio à agricultura
City: Piracicaba
Assoc. researchers: Marcio Luiz de Oliveira ; Peter Sima
Associated scholarship(s):18/18981-1 - Bombus bees for agricultural pollination programs: bioprospecting of Brazilian native species, BP.TT


Pollination is a key ecosystem service to the maintenance of both biodiversity in natural areas and agricultural productivity (food and biofuel). Considering 107 global crops, 70% depend on biotic pollination, representing 35% of the human food supply. When the flowers are properly pollinated, the fruits are heavier, have higher seed number and micronutrient contents, enhancing the market value. Bees are arguably the most important group of pollinator, comprising nearly 20 thousand species. Although Apis mellifera is managed worldwide for crop pollination, the demand for pollinators is higher than the available hive numbers. Therefore, the maintenance of agroecosystems relies on other bees, such as Bombus species, that can provide adequate pollination service due to some of their biological features: they are capable to vibrate the flowers with poricidal anthers, and pollen is realised; they visit twice as many flowers per minute; they are bigger and hairier, which may permit the adhesion of higher quantity of pollen grains; they forage earlier, in cold conditions and even when it is raining. These bumblebees are used to enhance agricultural production (up to 30%) of tomato, melon, eggplant, pumpkin, sweet pepper and strawberry in Europe, United States and some countries of Central and South America. In Brazil there are nine bumblebees species: eight that belong to subgenus Thoracobombus : Bombus morio, B. pauloensis, B. brevivillus, B. transversalis, B. rubriventris, B. applanatus, B. bellicosus and B. brasiliensis and one that belongs to subgenus Cullumanobombus, Bombus melaeucus. None of them is being used for pollinating purposes. However, recently B. pauloensis is being used in applied pollination of commercial crops in Colombia and Argentina. To make the use of pollinators efficient and profitable, a mass rearing technology should be developed. Although this technology is already used for the European species, it is essential to study the Brazilian native Bombus species, which are adapted to our climatic and environmental conditions and have different system of larval feeding. It is expected with this project to assess potential Bombus species for mass rearing and future use in applied pollination programs, leading to increase productivity and quality of tomato, strawberry, pumpkin, cotton, canola, pepper, melon, blueberry crops, especially in greenhouse crops, which correspond to an area of 22 thousand hectares in Brazil, providing higher incomes to farmers. (AU)

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