What Is Manual Pollination? (Without Bees)

What is manual pollination?

In nature, flowering plants are pollinated by insects or small animals specific to each species. Sometimes the wind can also act as a pollinator, especially in the case of certain trees. This pollination is then random: several species can be crossed, creating natural hybrids, sometimes the operation fails and the production of fruits and seeds will be less. The manual pollination carried out by man allows to control these parameters. It consists in taking pollen from the pistil of the male flower which is then placed in the heart of the female flower so that fertilization can take place.

Interest of manual pollination
This technique is used by horticulturists and sometimes even by the amateur gardener to create new varieties by crossing plants of the same botanical family. This method is also very popular with rose growers who are always looking for new varieties.

On the contrary, it can also be used to prevent hybridization between species if it is not desired.

Manual pollination is very useful to accelerate the fruiting process, especially on cucurbits (melon, watermelon, cucumber, squash…), plants that need heat and sun over a long period to give their best. In regions where summer is short, manual pollination helps to advance the process by a few weeks, allowing the fruit to ripen.

Hand pollination is very useful in greenhouses, conservatories or indoors, where pollinating insects are scarce, and it replaces natural pollination.

In some regions of the world, it replaces the work of insects because they have disappeared.

Worrying cases in the world
In Sichuan, a region located in the southwest of China, orchards have been pollinated manually for nearly 20 years. A great mobilization of the villagers is set up in order to pollinate the trees by hand. Family, friends and seasonal workers are working on top of the trees to do the work of the disappeared insects. Why is this? One of the theories put forward would be the policy of the ‘Great Leap Forward’ launched by Mao Zedong in 1958 which advocated a massive killing of birds, considered as ‘grain thieves’. Insects, freed from their major predators, multiplied and were eradicated in their turn with large doses of pesticides. The few surviving insects are still eliminated each year with large doses of pesticides sprayed over a long period of time.

In the United States, the mortality of bees is just as worrying, since it is between 30 and 99% of losses in the hives each year. The bees must then be replaced. A service of itinerant beekeepers is working to make up for this shortage by converging on the states where the need is felt, notably California.

The solution would undoubtedly be to regulate the massive use of pesticides at the global level, but faced with the profit that such small insects are!

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