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Pollination in apple orchards in the Hindu-Kush Himalaya region

In the Hindu-Kush Himalayan (HKH) region of Asia, apple production is a major agricultural activity, and is one of the most important crops. Worth approximately US$500 million/year, and for some farmers, up to 80% of total family income derives from apple production. Annually, about 2.2 million metric tons of apples are produced in the HKH region.

Apples have very specific pollination requirements, generally depending on cross-pollination (carried out by insects) between two different varieties.  Sustaining healthy apple production requires knowledge about appropriate cultivar and pollenizer species, orchard management, orchard structure, fruit quality metrics and apple pollinators. Since apple quality and quantity has been linked to bee diversity and abundance within orchards, understanding which factors affect bee pollinators within apple orchards is key to improving fruit production.

The apple industry in the HKH region is struggling despite the efforts to increase agronomic inputs (i.e. irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides etc.). Unfortunately, recognition of the contribution and management of pollination services to overall yields are not as well understood by farmers and extension workers. Farmers and growers need information and tools to make appropriate and feasible management and pollinator conservation decisions. The Government of Nepal, concerned with these issues, requested FAO to provide assistance to build the capacity of experts to address the management of pollination ecosystem services, for improved apple production.

Upon request of the Government of Nepal, from 14-16 April, 2014 a training workshop was held in Daman, Nepal, to address “Natural Pollination Services for Agricultural Production in Apple Orchards in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan Region”. The training workshop was organized through a collaboration between FAO (Headquarters and the FAO Office in Nepal), the GEF/UNEP/FAO Global Pollination Project, the Marin Community Foundation (United States), the Royal Saskatchewan Museum (Canada) and York University (Canada). The training workshop aimed to bring together participants from the HKH region in order to build capacity of experts at the regional level, but also to exchange national-level experiences. Experts were brought in from India, Nepal and Pakistan.

This training workshop provided an opportunity to learn about managing orchards to obtain maximum yield and quality of apples, by looking at:

  • Survey methods and identification of key apple pollinators, including their nesting and foraging preferences.
  • Assessment of pollination efficiency and contributions to yields under different farming systems.
  • Selection of candidate native bee species for long-term studies and development as managed pollinators.
  • Development of methods to encourage and conserve native apple pollinators by selecting crop/wild plants that extend the foraging period for key apple pollinators, and promote increased fecundity and population growth.

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