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  Bees and Buzz Pollination In Crops: Evaluating The Potential For Matching Bee Vibrations and Buzz-Pollinated Crops To Improve Fruit Yield


   Postgraduate Training

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  Dr J Stockan, Dr M Vallejo-Marin, Prof James Windmill  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Pollination is a major limitation of soft fruit production. Improving pollination therefore increases yield and quality of many soft fruits and vegetables. Suboptimal pollination directly impacts consumer preferences and market value as it can result in small fruits or fruits of heterogeneous sizes, which also adds challenges and costs for packaging. Blueberries are an excellent example of the potential benefits that improved pollination services can bring to a rapidly growing industry, with particular relevance to Scotland. Limited studies elsewhere have shown that full pollination can increase yields by up to 38 % (Gibbs et al., 2016). Blueberries may be particularly susceptible to suboptimal pollination because, similarly to tomatoes, they benefit from a specialised type of pollination called buzz pollination. Buzz pollination requires bees that apply vibrations to pollinate flowers, and is restricted to a subset of bee species, including bumblebees. Traditionally, due to cultivation methods and a lack of pollinators, this requires supplemental pollinators or hand pollination, with environmental and economic implications. Therefore, the objective of this project is to determine what type and level of supplemental pollination is optimal for fruit production, both now, and into the future. 

This project will fill existing knowledge gaps by addressing three key questions:

Q1. What is the relationship between vibration properties (amplitude, frequency, and duration) and pollen release and fruit quality across different varieties of soft fruits?

Q2. What are the properties of the vibrations used by buzz-pollinating bees while visiting experimental plots of different varieties of soft fruits?

Q3. What is the effect of increased temperature and humidity on the capacity of buzz-pollinating bees to release pollen from flowers?

This interdisciplinary studentship will offer the successful candidate the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills in engineering, pollinator biology and agroecology as well as working directly with industry. The biomechanical component of the study will involve regular work with the Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering at the University of Strathclyde. Glasshouse and field trials of bee vibrations, pollen removal and fruit set will be carried out at both the University of Stirling and The James Hutton Institute, which hosts a large live collection of blueberry cultivars and has extensive experience with the pollination of food crops. Experiments of buzz-pollination under varying temperatures and humidity conditions will be carried out at the Controlled Environment Facilities at the University of Stirling. The student will be registered at the University of Stirling.

Informal enquiries are welcome ahead of application.

Agriculture (1) Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

This studentship is fully funded by the Macaulay Development Trust for a period of 3.5 years and registered at the University of Stirling. This opportunity is open to UK students and provides funding to cover stipend and UK level tuition only. Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent).. Please apply for this project using the email link below and upload a current CV. You will then be sent an application form for completion.

References

BARTOMEUS, I., MOLINA, F.P., HIDALGO-GALIANA, A., ORTEGO, J. 2020. Safeguarding the genetic integrity of native pollinators requires stronger regulations on commercial lines. Ecological Solutions and Evidence, 1, e12012.
BRITO, V.L.G., NUNES, C.E.P., RESENDE, C.R., MONTEALEGRE-ZAPATA, F., VALLEJO-MARĺN, M. 2020. Biomechanical properties of a buzz-pollinated flower. Royal Society Open Science, 7: 201010.
BUCHMANN, S. L. 1983. Buzz pollination in angiosperms. In C. E. Jones & R. J. Little (Eds.), Handbook of Experimental Pollination Biology (pp. 73-113). NY: Scientific and Academic Editions.
COOLEY, H., VALLEJO-MARĺN, M. 2021. Buzz-Pollinated Crops: A Global Review and Meta-analysis of the Effects of Supplemental Bee Pollination in Tomato. Economic Entomology, 114: 505-519.
CORBET, S.A., HUANG, S.-Q. 2014. Buzz pollination in eight bumblebee-pollinated Pedicularis species: does it involve vibration-induced triboelectric charging of pollen grains? Annals of Botany, 114, 1665-1674.
DE LUCA, P.A., BUCHMANN, S., GALEN, C., MASON, A. C., VALLEJO-MARĺN, M. 2019. Does body size predict the buzz-pollination frequencies used by bees? Ecology and Evolution, 9, 4875-4887.
GIBBS, J., ELLE, E., BOBIWASH, K., HAAPALINEN, T., ISAACS, R. 2016. Contrasting pollinators and pollination in native and non-native regions of highbush blueberry production. PLoS ONE, 11(7): e0158937
KENNA, D., PAWAR, S., GILL, R.J. 2021. Thermal flight performance reveals impact of warming on bumblebee foraging potential. Functional Ecology, 2021: 00:1–15.
KING, M.J., & BUCHMANN, S.L. 1996. Sonication dispensing of pollen from Solanum laciniatum flowers. Functional Ecology, 10, 449-456.
HANSEN, M., LANES, G.C., BRITO, V.L., LEONEL, E.D. 2021. Investigation of pollen release by poricidal anthers using mathematical billiards. Physical Review E, 104, 034409.
MARTIN, C.D., FOUNTAIN, M.T., BROWN, M.J.F. 2021. The potential for parasite spill-back from commercial bumblebee colonies: a neglected threat to wild bees? Journal of Insect Conservation, 25, 531-539.
NATURESCOT. 2018. Pollinator Strategy for Scotland 2017-2027. NatureScot/Scottish Government.
RESAS. 2020. June Agricultural Census 2020. Scottish Government.