Sustainable pollination services for the soft fruit industry

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Graduate Office


BerryWorld is the UK's leading soft fruit marketing company, sourcing raspberries, strawberries and blueberries from around the world for UK supermarkets. BerryWorld recognises pollination as a core element of sustainability for the business. This PhD project will work with them to develop a 'blueprint for pollinator-friendly landscapes'.

Globally, pollinators are worth $235 to $577 billion per year for their direct contribution to production of crops, including many fruits, vegetables and oils. Approximately half of this pollination value comes from wild insects, many of which are declining in range and/or abundance. Effective conservation action to reverse these declines is needed, and agriculture is a key sector for taking action. This project is at the forefront of pollinator conservation, engaging agricultural industry in managing landscapes to support specific natural resources of direct value to their business through pollination.


10 25 50
Description I work on blueberry farms, studying commercial bumblebees (bee hives are bought to supplement pollination services by wild bees). By collecting the pollen from foraging bees returning to their hives, I can identify which plant species are present in the pollen. This is achieved using microscopy and new molecular techniques.

From my first year of data I could see that the majority of the pollen collected by the bees was not from the blueberry crop, but from flowers in the surrounding farm landscape. This suggests that a) bees need a varied pollen diet, and b) blueberry pollen is of low nutritional quality so bees forage elsewhere. A uniform landscape such as one with only blueberry flowers, may lead to reduced health and therefore pollinating abilities in the bumblebees, or they may have to fly further to get a varied diet, resulting in more time spent flying and less within the farm itself.

My results suggest that a diverse landscape could benefit commercial bees, wild bees and therefore increase pollination services of the blueberry crop.
Exploitation Route Creating pollinator friendly landscapes on soft fruit farms. By understanding the diets of bees, we can see which flowers are most frequently used when collecting pollen. This could lead to a more "pollinator-friendly" farm landscape, which in turn could provide an economic boost to the soft fruit industry in terms of increased pollination services.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

Description Been used to generate interest from berry growing industry through newsletters and presentations. This creates a better line of communication between academia and industry through discussion and potential collaborations.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Description BerryWorld 
Organisation BerryWorld
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution My research is aimed at helping BerryWorld create a more pollinator friendly landscape on their farms. They are the industrial CASE partner to this project and have been involved from the beginning. I will complete a 3-month internship at BerryWorld as part of the CASE placement.
Collaborator Contribution BerryWorld supply the farm sites where field studies take place. We have also discussed what they would like the research outputs to be, and in that sense have helped to steer the direction of the PhD.
Impact I have produced a list of flowering plants that commercial bees are most likely to visit during blueberry flowering season. I have written about the findings in the "Key Findings" section.
Start Year 2018