The importance of bee pollination of the sour cherry (Prunus cerasus) Cultivar ‘Stevnsbaer’ in Denmark
Low fruit set, despite normally-developed flowers, is often a significant contributor to poor yield of the self-fertile sour cherry (Prunus cerasus) cultivar ‘Stevnsbaer’ in Denmark. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of insect, and particularly, bee pollination on the fruit set of this cultivar, in order to provide orchard management information for both Danish ‘Stevnsbaer’ growers and beekeepers. Visits to cherry flowers by honey bees (Apis mellifera), Bombus species and solitary bees, were recorded during the flowering of ‘Stevnsbaer’ in five separate Danish orchards. The results indicate that there is a significantly higher fruit set on open pollinated branches when compared to caged branches, where bees and other pollinating insects where excluded. The results were qualitatively consistent over three different seasons (2007, 2009 and 2010). A period of prolonged cold, humid weather before and during early flowering probably reduced fruit set significantly in 2010 compared to 2009. Regarding the apparent benefits of bee pollination on fruit set and subsequent implications for yield, we recommend placing honeybees in ‘Stevnsbaer’ orchards during flowering to sustain commercially viable production. Another valuable management strategy would be to improve foraging and nesting conditions to support both honey and wild bees in and around the orchards.
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