Data collection begins for avocado eDNA Project

Curtin University PhD student Joshua Kestel was out in the field recently collecting data for the SWCC eDNA Avocado Pollinator project.  He used cameras to record which insects visit avocado flowers, as well as pan traps to identify insects found in the orchard.  Joshua also collected flowers for eDNA analysis that will be conducted by Murdoch University, this will help identify which insects visited the flowers.  Joshua was ably assisted by his mother, Jo-Anne Kestel, and 92-year-old grandfather, Terry Kestel. Field work will occur on two avocado orchards in Pemberton and Middlesex twice a year – at the beginning and end of flowering.

Joshua and his grandfather bagged flowers for eDNA analysis.

The research Joshua is undertaking will help determine which pollinators are most important for avocados.

“Our study offers an exciting opportunity to understand how pollinating insects in the biodiversity hotspot of South West Western Australia interrelate with avocado orchards. Hopefully, this will provide management strategies to help introduce this diverse community into agricultural practices,” Joshua said.

The data being collected will be used to help develop best management practices to enhance pollination in avocados.  This will include the development of plant species lists to attract and keep pollinators in the orchard, mowing strategies and the management of pesticide use.

Field days will also be held, and case studies produced to share the knowledge.

The project is supported by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program SmartFarms Partnership Grant and runs until 2023.

Collecting flowers from the avocado trees.

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