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article imageBees used in disease control

By Tim Sandle     Sep 26, 2014 in Environment
A novel method to use bees to deliver disease control to cherry blossom, preventing brown rot in cherries, has been developed by scientists. Brown rot is caused by a fungus that leads to yield loss and fruit spoilage.
The primary method to deal with brown rot on cherry trees is to spray the trees with a fungicide. This is expensive, has ecological implications, and is not always effective. Brown rot fungi break down cellulose. Cellulose is broken down by hydrogen peroxide. Because hydrogen peroxide is a small molecule, it can diffuse rapidly through the wood, leading to decay. Due to the decay wood shrinks, shows a brown discoloration, and cracks into roughly cubical pieces.
To find an alternative means to protect cherry trees, Australian researchers have used bees as novel “flying doctors.” As bees go out to the trees every day, they can be used to carry targeted fungicide.
The cherry tree industry is big in Australia and important to the economy, especially in relation to exports. The main species, Exocarpos cupressiformis Labill, commonly known as the native cherry or belongs to the sandalwood family of plants. As well as edible cherries, the wood can be used to make furniture. According to the Australian Native Plant Society, the pale wood is very fine-grained with little figure but often striking colour variation.
The use of bees brings with it several environmental and economic benefits compared to spraying fungicide. Furthermore, the use of bees carries the added benefit of boosting the number of managed hives, thereby helping with bee conservation.
If it proves successful, the use of bees can be applied to disease control in almonds, grapes, strawberry, raspberry, apple, pear and stone fruit.
The method has been developed by researchers at the University of Adelaide. The research as yet to be published.
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