Orchard layout and plant traits influence fruit yield more strongly than pollinator behaviour and density in a dioecious crop

Angela Peace, David Pattemore, Melissa Broussard, Dilini Fonseka, Nathan Tomer, Nilsa A. Bosque-Pérez, David Crowder, Allison K. Shaw, Linley Jesson, Brad G. Howlett, Mateusz Jochym, Jing Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Mutualistic plant-pollinator interactions are critical for the functioning of both non-managed and agricultural systems. Mathematical models of plant-pollinator interactions can help understand key determinants in pollination success. However, most previous models have not addressed pollinator behavior and plant biology combined. Information generated from such a model can inform optimal design of crop orchards and effective utilization of managed pollinators like western honey bees (Apis mellifera), and help generate hypotheses about the effects of management practices and cultivar selection. We expect that the number of honey bees per flower and male to female flower ratio will influence fruit yield. To test the relative importance of these effects, both singly and simultaneously, we utilized a delay differential equation model combined with Latin hypercube sampling for sensitivity analysis. Empirical data obtained from historical records and collected in kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis) orchards in New Zealand were used to parameterize the model. We found that, at realistic bee densities, the optimal orchard had 65-75% female flowers, and the most benefit was gained from the first 6-8 bees/1000 flowers, with diminishing returns thereafter. While bee density significantly impacted fruit production, plant-based parameters-flower density and male:female flower ratio-were the most influential. The predictive model provides strategies for improving crop management, such as choosing cultivars which have their peak bloom on the same day, increasing the number of flowers with approximately 70% female flowers in the orchard, and placing enough hives to maintain more than 6 bees per 1000 flowers to optimize yield.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0231120
JournalPloS one
Volume15
Issue number10 October
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2020

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