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Development of biomolecules for coffee pollination aiming to increase productivity and grain quality


About 90% of crops produced worldwide depend to some degree on pollinators. Of these pollinators, bees are responsible for the pollination of 75% of the total plants cultivated and used directly or indirectly in human food worldwide. In Brazil alone, the value of pollination for food production is around R$ 43 billion annually. This proposal includes the creation of a company for the development of synthetic biomolecules that mimic pollinator-dependent plant odors of economic interest. Of the 191 national crops that are converted into food, 114 depend on the action of pollinators. Among the crops of great agricultural importance, holders of the highest annual production values, coffee (Coffea arabica) stands out, whose contribution represents 12% of this total value (R$5.60 billion). Nowadays, it is known that one of the benefits of pollination for coffee is the increase in its yield by 30%, as well as in the quality of the coffee produced. It is worth mentioning that the increase in pollination favors not only quantity and quality, but also benefits a lower production cost for the farmer. Despite its economic importance, coffee, like other commodities, is still poorly studied in Brazil regarding the strategies used to increase productivity based on a sustainable system, with high precision pollination and optimizing the production system. The training of bees with the coffee flower odor, in turn, emerges as an innovative proposal to fill this gap, since bees have biological characteristics that make them able of developing a memory of the food place (pollen and flower nectar) based on smell. To deepen our understanding of the use of odors as part of a target pollination strategy, we intend to develop biomolecules that consist of a blend of synthetic odors that bees perceive as the natural floral aroma of coffee. Considering these aspects, this proposal includes the creation of a startup for the development of synthetic biomolecules that mimic odors from plants of economic interest that are dependent on pollinators. The initial focus will be the development of biomolecules that favor the precise pollination of coffee, using Africanized bees (Apis mellifera) and a native bee (Tetragonisca angustula - jataí). By synthesizing the biomolecules and training the bees with the odor of the target plant, we hope to obtain an increase of at least 30% in coffee production, as we will seek to carry out species-specific training. Studies have shown that bees, when trained with synthetic products, favor an increase in sunflower production by 57%. In future scenarios, this project also aims to extend its application to other cultures, such as açaí, in the Amazon region and other Brazilian cultures, in addition to exploring the potential of several native species, to promote species-specific pollination. With the technique of training bees and the development of synthetic biomolecules, the project will provide increased coffee productivity, increased honey production, improved grain quality, and, potentially, reduced production costs. (AU)

Articles published in Pesquisa para Inovação FAPESP about research grant:
Startup wants to train bees to pollinate coffee more precisely 
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