Environmental DNA (eDNA)

SWCC is working with Curtin University to investigate which pollinators visit and potentially pollinate avocado flowers, using innovative environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques developed at the Curtin University TrEnD lab. PhD student, Joshua Kestel, is carrying out the main body of research, with SWCC, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and Avocado Australia staff assisting.

Avocado flowers are collected for eDNA analysis to help identify which insects visited the flowers. eDNA data, along with photographs and pan trap survey information, is being used to identify potential insect pollinator species.

The information will be used to 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.

Progress in 2020/21

Surveying using eDNA samples from inflorescences, camera monitoring using GoPros and pan traps was undertaken on two avocado orchards during flowering in 2020. The results have been analysed and presented at two events.

Early results have shown that thrips beetles, flies, hoverflies and bees (both European honeybees and native bees) are the main visitors to avocado flowers and the project is now concentrating on finding out to what extent remnant bushland adjacent to orchards affects numbers of these insects, as this would be one of the easiest management options for orchardists.

eDNA

“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 Kestel, Curtin University.

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