Pollination by bees improves the quality, quantity and market value of strawberries compared with wind and self pollination, a team of German and Swedish researchers has found.
The conclusions were based on a field experiment in which nine commercial strawberry varieties were subjected to self, wind and bee pollination using exclusion treatments.
The bee-pollinated berries were also found to be heavier, redder, had fewer malformations and were graded more highly. Being firmer, they had improved handling and shelf life, with a reduction in losses of 11 per cent compared with non-bee-pollinated fruit.
The researchers wrote: "The quality and yield effects are driven by the pollination-mediated production of hormonal growth regulators." As this effect occurs in many pollinated crops, the findings "should be transferable to a wide range of crops".
They added that bee pollination "appears to be economically more important than previously recognised and needs better support".