The First “intimate” cooperation between drones and bees
In recent decades, the bee species has suffered a near-destructive blow. Environmental pollution, climate change, increasing new pests (such as corrugated parasites), etc., have caused more than 50% of the world’s bees to die. From the perspective of environmental science and economics, the reduction in the number of bees not only affects biodiversity but also affects the pollination of most food, flowers, fruit trees and other flower crops, resulting in reduced crop yields. To this end, Mickey Wang of the South Australian Agricultural Research Centre led his research team to cooperate with the company, and for the first time, through the “electronic bee” – the drone to assist the bee pollination experiment and found an ecologically friendly agricultural solution.
In a world without bees, humans can only live for 4 years?
Since 1994, the bees have disappeared mysteriously, which has aroused worldwide attention. The world’s major newspapers and periodicals, including the US “Washington Post”, Germany’s “Der Spiegel”, the British “Independent”, and the United States’ International Herald Tribune, rushed to report this phenomenon, and claimed that claimed that the greatest physicist of the 20th century, Einstein, said: “If the bees disappear from the earth, humans will only survive for another 4 years. There are no bees, no pollination, no plants, no animals, no humans.”)
There is no evidence to prove whether Einstein really said this sentence, and there is no research to confirm the scientific and authenticity of the human limit in this sentence, but there is no doubt. Yes, the spread of this statement has awakened the alarm to the world through the name of Einstein.
The entomologist Dr. May Belenbaum named the mysterious disappearance of the bee colony as “bee colony collapse syndrome” (also known as Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD for short) (2), this syndrome arises under the combined influence of many factors. The region has gradually developed from North America to Europe and Asia. It has been going on for six years since the end of 2006, and there is no effective response.
Maureen Maxwell, an expert from BeesOnline, a beekeeping and honey production organization in New Zealand, said: “If there is no bee pollination, the world will change dramatically. Bees directly affect most of our food and flower crops, no bees, we must be significant Increasing the use of chemical fertilizers will lead to large-scale water pollution, which will eventually pollute our food and living environment.” (3) Research by the Institute of Bees of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences shows that the reduction in the number of bees triggered by CCD will cause “pollination”. The crisis, which in turn affects the yield and ecological balance of crops, will also jeopardize the downstream industries of bee products. (4)
In Australia, for example, the area of Australian orchards has been expanding in recent years. The climate change and the decline in the number of bees have greatly affected the efficiency of natural pollination of fruit trees. Using insect-borne pollination as the main pollination fruit tree (such as apple, pear, almond, peach, cherry, etc.), the pollination rate is greatly reduced, directly affecting the fruit setting rate and yield.
Sitting fruit refers to the phenomenon that young fruit formed by pollination and fertilization can grow normally without falling off.
In the affected fruit tree crops, the decrease in pollination rate is the most obvious impact on almond planting. Almond trees, also known as almonds and almonds, are fruit trees with very high economic value. According to data provided by Aohua Finance Online and International Fruit and Vegetable Report, as early as 2014/15, Australia’s total almond exports reached 522 million Australian dollars, becoming the world’s second largest almond exporter.(5) The annual output of almonds in 2014/15 has reached 80,000 and 90,000 tons respectively, becoming the highest export value of horticultural products in FY14.(6) According to Statisa.com’s agricultural sector, in 2016/17, only for Western Europe, Australia’s almond exports reached 195 million Australian dollars.(7)
From the above data, almond trees have long been one of Australia’s most important cash crops. The cultivation of almond trees not only requires bees to carry out worm-borne pollination but also requires cross-pollination (different varieties of fruit trees to pollinate each other) in order to produce fruit. The success of hybrid pollination is highly dependent on the process of collecting pollen and nectar between bees in different varieties of fruit trees, that is, the bees carry pollen and complete the process of cross-pollination of almond trees.
Take the example of Nonpareil, the most popular almond variety in the market. Because almond trees have the characteristics of self-infertility and self-satisfaction, the Nonpareil varieties of almonds are planted by cross-pollination. It is necessary for the fruit growers to mix Nonpareil almond trees with other almond varieties, each planting two to three rows of Nonpareil varieties, spacing planting. One to two rows of pollination varieties, cross-pollination by bee pollination and pollination among different tree species
In this environment, the inefficient bee pollination, pollination and the reduction in the number of bees will have a large impact on the yield of almonds. First, the pollination of the bees is not controllable by breeding bees in the intercropped tree species. The uniformity of pollination is directly related to the flying pollination of the bees. For example, if a bee pollinates and pollinates the area between the Nonpareil almond tree and another species of almond mixed tree, some worker bees collect sufficient pollen in the pollinated variety area to return to the hive, and the pollen may not be uniformly pollinated into the Nonpareil tree area. Secondly, almond trees generally bloom in early spring. During this period, the weather is fickle. Frequent rainy weather and cold currents can cause bees to fail to collect honey. In addition, because the almond orchards are located in relatively remote and arid desert areas, the beehives need to be transported to the orchard from a long distance, which is likely to cause CCD phenomenon, leading to the death of bees.(8) Excessive wind speed in the desert area will cause the bees to fail to fly normally, the temperature fluctuations in the hive will be large, and the immunity of the bees will be weakened. If the high-quality pollen is not replenished in time, the original protein level of the bees will be restored to help them enhance their physical fitness. The sensitivity of the disease increases, which means that germs and protozoa are more susceptible to bees.(9)
Therefore, finding a new pollination method that can protect the species and quantity of bees, cooperate with bees, and solve the problem of bee pollination is an urgent need for almond trees, fruit growers, and experts in related fields.
In order to help the fruit farmers solve the problem of pollination while protecting the bees, the Australian National University and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) conducted a three-year artificial pollination study on almond trees, which gained a lot of experience. Based on this research experience, Mickey Wang of the South Australian Agricultural Research Center led his research team to conduct a comparison experiment between bee pollination combined with human pollination, bee pollination combined with drone pollination and single bee pollination. Provided by Guangzhou Jifei Technology Co., Ltd., the model is P20 plant protection drone.
Studies have shown that traditional manpower spray pollination takes a long time, and it is difficult to effectively and quickly spray tall fruit trees. It is obviously unrealistic to spray manually by a human to assist bee pollination. A major breakthrough was achieved through the pollination experiments carried out using the XAG P20 UAV.
After the bees collected almond pollen, the team used the XAG P20 drone to evenly spray the pollen to artificially pollinate the almond trees. The results of comparative experiments show that the drone pollination not only solves the pollination problem of cross-flower hybridization but also increases the yield by 15% compared to the fruit trees pollinated only by bees.
After the experiment, the Thurla Farm in Victoria and the Clark Taylor Farm in the Riverside Area of Nanao successively cooperated with the company to conduct large-scale pollination of 3,750 acres of almond trees using the XAG P series Agricultural UAV and exceeded the farmer’s expectations. The combination of pollination with bee and pollination of bees, changing the traditional almond tree pollination method, solved the concern of the farmers on the shortage of bee colonies and the efficiency of bees and increased the yield of fruit trees.
The drone pollination operation is simple, ensuring that the pollen is evenly sprayed in the area where pollination is required and becomes an “electronic bee” in the orchard. After the bees collect pollen, the pollen can be replaced by other pollen collected manually to ensure that the bees have enough food. At the same time, the required pollen of the fruit tree to be pollinated is matched with the solvent, and then uniformly sprayed by the drone. Since the drone collects pollen uniformly and the amount of spraying is large and concentrated, the fruit farmers can concentrate on the pollination and pollination of fruit trees in different areas, the bees can work in the pollination area, and the “electronic bees” work in the pollination area. It greatly improves the efficiency of fruit tree planting and pollination and reduces the cost of pollination.
On one hand, bees only need to stay in the pollination area to collect powder, which can ensure that the pollen is replenished in time, maintain the protein level, reduce the incidence of pests, and protect the quantity and safety of the pollen bee population as much as possible. At the same time, the pollination process is replaced by drones, and the time is flexible, which reduces the impact of weather changes and other reasons on pollination, making large-scale artificial pollination practical. If further experiments and extensions are widely applied to almond tree pollination, the “bee colony” effect of the drone will be formed, which will have a subversive effect on the whole almond industry.
If one day, there are no more bees in the world, the serious consequences are unimaginable…
Each species has its own rationality and value to the entire ecosystem. The extinction of species caused by human factors will one day plague humans. The impact of long-distance “dumping pollination” on bees is only one of the many human factors that cause the disorder of bee colony. UAV pollination is only a successful attempt by humans to protect bees.
In the future, I hope that more people can pay attention to the issue of bee and species diversity, participate in protection work, and not let the era of mass extinction become a reality.
Reference materials: (1)https://www.guokr.com/article/3545/ (2) http://tech.sina.com.cn/d/a/2017-09-22/doc-ifymfcih2280213.shtml (3) http://www.beesonline.co.nz, quoted from https://www.guokr.com/article/3545/ (4) Wu Yanyan, Zhou Ting, Wang Qiang, Dai Pingli. Research progress on the disorder of bee colony failure [J].Advances in Animal Medicine, 2013, 34(5): 95-99 (5) http://sydney.mofcom.gov.cn/article/ddgk/zwminzu/201509/20150901103214.shtml (6)https://www.guojiguoshu.com/article/1579 (7)https://www.statista.com/statistics/822593/australia-export-value-of-almonds-by-region/ (8) Zheng Zhiyang, Liang Qin. Analysis of the etiology of colony collapse disorder (CCD)[J]. Chinese Bee Industry, 2009, 60(6): 6-8 (9) RenéeJohnson. Recent Honey Bee Colony Declines.CRS Report For Congress. 2008:19.