Stingless Bees; the future of pollination?

Photo: Native Stingless Bee. Courtesy of Peter O. Find more of his pictures here.

Honeybees, both wild and managed, are excellent pollinators for the Australian horticulture industry. However, our friends are experiencing major threats to their populations. One, in particular, is the Varroa mite, which has established itself within Townsville’s honeybee populations. If this mite was to find it’s way outside of Townsville, it could devastate the Australian honeybee population.

Therefore, the industry must look for an alternative pollinator and investigate its performance within horticulture. So, who could that be? The answer is closer to home than you may think and is already being used within the Macadamia industry.

Western Sydney University (WSU) at the National Protected Cropping Centre is investigating the leading alternative for the honey bee, the stingless bees. Native to Australia, stingless bees live in large colonies and pollinate a wide variety of crops within the horticulture industry.


Above: Stingless Bee and Honeybee size comparison. Courtesy of the Aussie Bee website

Stingless bees have large, easily managed colonies as evidenced by the increase in stingless beekeeping throughout Australia. These native pollinators may have a wide, underdeveloped potential for crop pollination throughout Australian agriculture. Stingless bees, at present, are already being used for crop production in some Asian countries, such as India and Thailand.

The funding from Hort Innovation Australia (HIA) to WSU has seen the investment conduct studies, across a comprehensive  range of fruit and vegetable crops, to ascertain whether the bees can adequately pollinate the crops. The effectiveness of the stingless bee pollinators will also be tested against crop set, yield amount and quality.

Then, the most promising bee and crop combinations will be further assessed through the use of glasshouse conditions. This will allow the university to further study the potential use of stingless bees within the horticulture industry.

Some of the crops researchers are using to assess the potential of these pollinators includes;

  • Almond
  • Avocado
  • Lychee
  • Macadamia
  • Mango
  • Glasshouse and Field Vegetables

Drones still ‘right up there’ for Future Farming Focus

If there is one topic that the Wide Bay-Burnett VegNET project has focused on heavily this year,  it’s future farming.  Aka, robots, drones and sensors.  Here’s a round-up of future farming events, projects, videos and resources for growers……

Robots, Drones & Sensors; Future Farming Masterclasses – In April this year, Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers (BFVG) ran a series of masterclasses at Agrotrend on future farming technology.  Masterclasses featured presentations by mechatronic engineers, agronomists and entrepreneurs; you can catch up on these classes from the comfort of your home office.  Here are the links to each masterclass:

RIPPA & Drone Field day – In June, we ran a field day to hone in on drone and robot technology, and had the opportunity to see the RIPPA in action, in the field.  The RIPPA, an aptly named Robot for Intelligent Perception and Precision Application, has been developed specifically for vegetable production by the University of Sydney.  To see the RIPPA in action, check out this short video.

Local agronomist, Renee Liddle, and Drone Pilot, Josh Caccioppola, stole the show however, with their DJI Matrice 100 demonstration and presentation.  Renee and Josh walked growers through how their drone captures images of a paddock, and how they view and interpret the images.  You can download a PDF of their presentation here.

Using drones to save on pesticide losses – Although use of drones for weed spraying was not discussed at the RIPPA field day, we recently came across this video that has been developed by the Queensland Government.  To see how canegrowers in Far North Queensland are using drones to spot spray weeds…


Future Focus – Robotics and Intelligent Systems in Australian Vegetable Production Systems (webinar recording) – If you missed being involved in this webinar, never fear! All VegNET webinars are recorded for you to catch up on at a time that suits you.  You can access a copy of the individual presentation slides below, or watch the full webinar recording HERE:

Veg Automation project – Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) are developing sensor technology and systems for automated, rapid assessment of vegetable in-field quantity and quality. For an update on this Vegetable Levy funded project, download the latest Veg automation news.

Acknowledgements: Post written by Michelle Haase – Vegetable Industry Development Officer (VegNET) with Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers –

The webinar session was facilitated by Carl Larsen from RMCG and delivered by the National Vegetable Extension Network (VegNET). 

The video on Using Drones to save on pesticide costs and loss was developed by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, funded by the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program and the Australian Government’s Reef Trust program. 

Funding for the VegNET National Vegetable Extension Network program is from Hort Innovation with vegetable grower levies and funding by the Australian Government.


TPP Surveillance Update

Tomato Potato Psyllidd (TPP) is an exotic pest.  Although only tiny at 3mm in length, this sap-sucking insect is considered a major biosecurity threat for vegetable growers.

An adult TPP resembles a miniature cicada or a winged aphid.  It has a dark, brownish coloured body with white or sometimes yellow markings, and transparent wings which are held vertically over its body.  When disturbed, the adult TPP gives a characteristic wiggle of the abdomen and then jumps vertically or takes flight.

TPP has a wide host range – tomatoes, potatoes, capsicums, chillies, eggplants, tamarillos and sweetpotatos – and is easily spread via plant and equipment, plant materials, by wind and/or by its own means (flight!).  It therefore has all the hallmarks of pest potential to cause significant vegetable losses.

Signs and symptoms of a TPP infestation include;

  • adult psyllids jumping from foliage when disturbed
  • severe wilting of plants caused by psyllids feeding
  • stunting and yellowing of growth tips, and/or yellowing of leaf margins
  • cupping or upward curling of leaves
  • small white sugar-like granules coating leaves and stems, attracting ants and sometimes the growth of sooty mould.

Early season detection and management is critical to minimise psyllid reproduction and spread. Both commercial vegetable growers and backyard gardeners are urged to check for signs of TPP.  Plant Health Australia, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and Agriculture Victoria have an excellent range of images of TPP in the various stages of development online, to assist in accurate identification.

TPP was detected in Western Australia last year, leading to a significant expansion of TPP surveillance by each State government throughout the country.  The TPP Surveillance Overview Program supported this surveillance effort through the provision of more than 3,000 sticky traps to interested industry stakeholders to monitor for TPP.

Between April 2017 and 2018 over 1,100 traps have been returned to TIA and assessed. No TPP were detected.

Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), 30 April 2018

Surveillance is an extremely important aspect of TPP monitoring – all data collected from these traps is used to support each state in Area Freedom (AF) certificates as proof of TPP absence. AF certificates and evidence of TPP surveillance are needed to maintain access to trade markets.

The TPP Surveillance Overview Program is operated by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) with funding by Hort Innovation.  The TPP surveillance program has been extended for a further two months until a national approach to TPP surveillance is developed.

Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetables Growers can supply growers with a monitoring kit; TIA will continue to assess returned sticky traps until the end of July. For a sticky trap monitoring kit to be sent to you, contact BFVG’s VegNET Officer Michelle Haase.  To stay up to date with the TPP Surveillance Program, check out the UTAS website – here – or email the Project Coordinator Raylea Rowbottom.

Reporting of TPP is mandatory and can be done by contacting Biosecurity Queensland on 132 523 or the 24 hour emergency pest hotline – 1800 084 881.

Source & Acknowledgements:  Post written by Michelle Haase – Vegetable Industry Development Officer (VegNET) with Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers – Funding for the VegNET National Vegetable Extension Network program is from Hort Innovation with vegetable grower levies and funding by the Australian Government.

Information supplied by Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture –  Images courtesy of Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia.



Negotiate+Agree = Winning!

Would you like to increase your ability to handle those difficult conversations? Would you like to feel more confident when involved in negotiations over the sale of your produce? Perhaps you’d just like some tactics up your sleeve to support your day-to-day discussions with service providers and suppliers….

Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers (BFVG) knows that it can be difficult for growers involved in negotiations that sometimes resemble a David and Goliath type situation.  It can be tricky to know where your “point-of-power” is, to respond without reacting, and to get an outcome that works for you.

That’s why we are running a Negotiations & Influencing Workshop for growers and others working in the industry.  The Negotiations & Influencing Workshop has been created for the horticulture industry by the horticulture industry.  It has been designed specifically to help growers handle difficult conversations, be better communicators, and feel more confident in influencing the conversation for a better outcome. It will help develop personal capacity to negotiate and influence.

Topics that will be covered throughout the workshop include;

  • Control and influence the conversation to get to better pricing outcomes
  • Preparing effectively to combat wholesaler retail push
  • Identifying tactics and a strategy to respond
  • Using language to create cooperation
  • Managing emotional and difficult conversations
  • Avoiding conflict.

BFVG is coordinating this event in partnership with VegPro; an industry owned and driven initiative specialising in tailor-made training opportunities for those in the vegetable industry.  It is a FREE event with priority places for vegetable levy-paying growers and BFVG members.

Here are the details:

When – Wednesday & Thursday, 14-15 March 2018
Where – Fairymead House, Thornhill Street, BUNDABERG NORTH
Time – 9am – 4pm
RSVP – Essential – Online or contact BFVG on (07) 4153 3007

The workshop has already been rolled out in other peak vegetable growing regions. This is what workshop participants have said;

“This course gave me improved ability to understand different negotiation positions.”

“Negotiated a price reduction from 10% down to 5%. I had to work really hard to get the outcome and was so glad I had done this course which gave me the confidence to fight and not just roll over to their wishes.”

“Well-presented. Nicely geared towards ag/hort sector. Presenters seemed experienced and well-versed in the topic.”


“Comprehensive, well-resourced, challenging.”

I am personally really looking forward to these two days, and I hope that you will join me.  Please don’t hesitate to email me directly if you have any queries – .

Source: VegPRO – An industry education and training initiative that’s role is to provide training, resources, and tools to the Vegetable industry. It is funded by Hort Innovation using the vegetable research and development levy and funds from the Australian Government.

Acknowledgements: Image courtesy of Michael Leunig. Post written by Michelle Haase – Vegetable Industry Development Officer (VegNET). Funding for the VegNET National Vegetable Extension Network program is from Hort Innovation with vegetable grower levies and funding by the Australian Government.


Strategic Investment – Vegetables

Have you heard about the SIP?  The SIP is the Strategic Investment Plan and an important document guiding Hort Innovation’s management of investment for the vegetable industry over the next five years.

The SIP for the vegetable levy fund has just been released.  It is intended to ensure that investment decisions align with industry priorities to attain maximum benefit for the vegetable industry.

The vegetable industry in Australia is extensive with the gross value of vegetable production in 2015/16 estimated at $3.5 billion. In 2014/15, there were 1,676 vegetable-growing businesses paying the national vegetable levy; the levies are paid to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Hort Innovation manages the vegetable industry levy funds that are directed to research and development (R&D). In 2016/17, total vegetable levy receipts were approximately $9.2 million of R&D levies.

The SIP has been developed in consultation with Australian vegetable industry levy payers (growers). Hort Innovation undertook a desktop review, facilitated workshops, conducted surveys and held one-on-interviews with Australian vegetable industry levy payers, and industry stakeholders (State Government, consumer groups, industry organisations like BFVG, and research bodies) throughout Australia. A big thanks to growers from this region that participated in the SIP workshop in 2017!

Major opportunities to the vegetable industry that are identified in the SIP (in no particular order) are;

  • Seasonal opportunities for export markets – southern hemisphere
  • Close proximity to Asian markets – extensive and continue to grow
  • Industry reputation – quality processes and standards
  • Production capacity – diversity within regions
  • Investment and capacity – adopting new and innovative technologies
  • Increasing consumer aspirations – healthy eating
  • Adoption of consumer insights – use of insight in business decision making
  • Growing integration and collaboration – between supply chain and industry
  • Utilisation of significant R&D investment.

Major challenges identified in the SIP (in no particular order) are;

  • Environmental, pest and disease issues
  • Continued adoption of best management practices, and limited uptake of industry knowledge/transfer of innovation
  • Substantial climatic variability regionally, and biosecurity risks
  • Increased global competition – imports
  • Production costs – high, and slowing of productivity growth
  • Farmgate margins – slimmer
  • Impediments to exports, such as trade barriers.

To read a summary of the SIP – download.  For the full version – download.


  1. Hort Innovation (2017) Vegetable Strategic Investment Plan 2017-2022 – At A Glance (summary)
  2. Hort Innovation (2017) Vegetable Strategic Investment Plan 2017-2022


Post written by Michelle Haase – Vegetable Industry Development Officer (VegNET) with Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers – Funding for the VegNET National Vegetable Extension Network program is from Hort Innovation with vegetable grower levies and funding by the Australian Government.