Home' Cherry Magazine : Cherry autumn 2018 Contents 7
BEES VERSUS SPRAYING
horticulture.com.au/grower-focus/cherry | Autumn 2018
Australian Bee Services – a leading supplier
of hives to bee-dependent South Australian
industries – continues to supply the adapted
hives. He also maintains upwards of 30
spore dispensers to lend to growers who
want to try out the innovative method.
Both conventional and organic growers
are in the mix of orchards that rely on
entomovectoring to control grey mould.
The bees are especially valued when
more biological management practices are
desirable or profitable. They are also of
interest on steeply sloped land that poses
challenges for tractors in wet conditions and
faces erosion issues.
Grower Dr Philip Marriott participated in
the trial and has used the bees continuously
ever since. He maintains a 5000-tree
cherry orchard on steeply sloped land in
the Adelaide Hills that achieved NASAA
Certified Organic status two years ago.
Dr Marriott says he and his family live
in the orchard – a factor that drove the
switch to organic production methods
and he uses a range of methods to
control pests and diseases. Bee-based
spore delivery fitted in well in his broader
management framework and he is
delighted to let the bees do work he
would otherwise have to do himself.
“After four years of using bee-delivered
Trichoderma spores, grey mould is non-
existent in my orchard,” Dr Marriott says. “But
it is important to note that the spores do not
fix brown rot, as is often claimed in the press.”
To control brown rot, Dr Marriott makes
the conditions for its growth as difficult
as possible, removing fallen fruit and leaf
debris by grazing with 60 Shropshire sheep,
20 Pilgrim geese and 20 Saxony ducks after
harvest. He also prunes trees to achieve a
drying effect through increased airflow.
“Some years there is little if any brown
rot detected in the packing shed. Other
years we see more, but never to a crisis
level,” he says, adding that he would love to
see a biocontrol agent developed against
brown rot (Monilinia sp.) to add to the
That is a theme echoed by other
growers, Mr Le Feuvre and Dr Hogendoorn.
All advocate strongly for ongoing research
to develop biocontrol agents for a broader
range of diseases, starting with brown rot for
the cherry industry.
The Trichoderma spores currently
in use are produced and supplied by
Metcalf Biocontrol. Different formulations
are produced for bee and spray delivery,
however, and with demand low for the
product suited to bees, the cost is still high
and growers fear the supply might dry up.
Mr Le Feuvre says the answer is greater
adoption to increase demand and reduce
costs. To achieve that he believes further
innovations are needed. “As it stands,
the spore dispensers have to be refilled
daily throughout the flowering period,” he
says. “While cherry growers are great at
producing cherries, they may not be so
experienced at dealing with bees. They are
finding the process onerous.”
Economic analysis by the University of Adelaide found that delivery
of the spores by spraying accrued a cost of $440 per hectare for two
sprays over the three-week flowering period. This cost accounts for
fuel, time, the spores and use of the tractor. The same level of coverage
was achieved by bees for $340 per hectare. That amount accounts for
enough spores for a three-week period and modifications to two hives.
Katja Hogendoorn, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Philip Marriott, email@example.com;
Helen Lindon, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Danny Le Feuvre, danny@AustralianBeeServices.com.au,
Dr Marriott can testify to the difficulties,
laughingly recounting being chased back
into his house by irate bees in the early
days of recharging the dispensers.
Helen Lindon of Marble Hill Cherries
faced difficulties too. She and her husband
are conventional growers who run a
‘pick-your-own’ orchard and prefer to limit
chemical use. Mrs Lindon, however, is
allergic to bee stings. When her husband
was suddenly hospitalised, the orchard had
to abandon bee-based spore delivery for
Further innovation, however, is possible.
Mr Le Feuvre says talks are underway with
a New Zealand bee equipment company,
Ecrotek Beekeeping Supplies. The goal is
to develop a more automated spore
delivery system for the hives that does not
require daily recharging.
“The biggest barrier to uptake is the
dispenser,” Mr Le Feuvre says. “If we can
develop a robust, automated system we
would see much greater adoption. The
technology would then have a bright future.
Economies of scale would also kick in,
bringing the cost of the spores down
and adding to the incentive to use bees
instead of tractors and to develop new
To learn more about the use of
honeybees to improve broadacre crop
yields, visit www.australianbeeservices.
Left: Bees hard at work pollinating flowers in Dr
Philip Marriott’s orchard. Above: Beehives with
the spore dispensers attached.
PHOTOS: DR PHILIP MARRIOTT
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