- Bryony Willcox, PhD student, University of New England

A new project investigating the linkages between pollinators and the health of individual mango trees is set to begin this year in Mareeba, QLD. The PhD project is being conducted as part of the Rural Research and Development For Profit Scheme, supported by Horticulture Innovation Australia. This initiative seeks to combine remote sensing technologies with on ground effectiveness measures of pollinator communities.

Mango insect pollinators include bees, flies, wasps, beetles and butterflies. These pollinators occur in different combinations across orchards, depending on the flowers available, the time of year and the location of orchards. Understanding which individual insect species are contributing to pollination services within mango orchards can help us to understand which pollinators are the most efficient and in what combinations, to ensure that pollination is not a limiting factor for production.

NDVI Image
Example of a classified Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) image (Worldview-2 satellite) of an orchard, with high NDVI indicating high vigour canopy growth whilst low NDVI indicating poor vigour. The yellow pins indicate the location of individual trees where pollination surveys across varying tree vigour regions will be undertaken. The images have been overlayed onto Google Earth. (Image courtesty of Andrew Robson)

The project will use satellite remote sensing technology to map tree health across mango individual blocks, farms and growing region. This information will then be analyzed in conjunction with field-based pollinator surveys, so we can understand if different pollinator communities are associated with mango tree health. Importantly, the project will follow the development of the crop from flowering through to final harvest over two growing seasons, in order to assess how pollinators and tree characteristics impact on productivity measures such as fruit set, yield and fruit quality.

Bryony Willcox is a PhD student at the University of New England, Armidale, supervised by Assoc. Prof. Andrew Robson, Dr. Romina Rader and Dr. Brad Howlett.