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Proc Biol Sci. 2013 Dec 4;281(1775):20132440. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2440. Print 2014 Jan 22.

Bee pollination improves crop quality, shelf life and commercial value.

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Agroecology, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Göttingen, , Grisebachstrasse 6, 37077 Göttingen, Germany, Centre for Environmental and Climate Research, University of Lund, , Sölvegatan 37, 22362 Lund, Sweden, Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology (Zoology III), Biocenter, Am Hubland, University of Würzburg, , 97074 Würzburg, Germany, Quality of Plant Products, Department of Crop Sciences, Carl-Sprengel-Weg 1, 37075 Göttingen, Germany.


Pollination improves the yield of most crop species and contributes to one-third of global crop production, but comprehensive benefits including crop quality are still unknown. Hence, pollination is underestimated by international policies, which is particularly alarming in times of agricultural intensification and diminishing pollination services. In this study, exclusion experiments with strawberries showed bee pollination to improve fruit quality, quantity and market value compared with wind and self-pollination. Bee-pollinated fruits were heavier, had less malformations and reached higher commercial grades. They had increased redness and reduced sugar-acid-ratios and were firmer, thus improving the commercially important shelf life. Longer shelf life reduced fruit loss by at least 11%. This is accounting for 0.32 billion US$ of the 1.44 billion US$ provided by bee pollination to the total value of 2.90 billion US$ made with strawberry selling in the European Union 2009. The fruit quality and yield effects are driven by the pollination-mediated production of hormonal growth regulators, which occur in several pollination-dependent crops. Thus, our comprehensive findings should be transferable to a wide range of crops and demonstrate bee pollination to be a hitherto underestimated but vital and economically important determinant of fruit quality.


commercial grades; crop yield; ecosystem services; post-harvest quality; shelf life; strawberry

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