Insects, Pollination, and Cocoa Production in the Caribbean

The Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich is collaborating with the University of Trinidad and Tobago and the Jamaican Cocoa Board to maintain the rich biodiversity that supports improved cocoa production in the Caribbean, in particular the insect pollinator population. Steve Belmain, Phil Stevenson, Sarah Arnold, and Ruth Leavett write: “Bees are in crisis, and collapsing colonies and habitat loss threaten the pollination of some important crops. While much current research work focuses on bees, other pollinators, such as midges, which pollinate cocoa plants across the world, must not be forgotten.”

This work is part of an African Caribbean and Pacific Science and Technology Programme initiative for Sustainable Development. Funded by the EU Development Fund to help build scientific capacity in the Caribbean, this €500,000, 3 year project aims to improve yields of the commercial crop cocoa for smallholder farmers in the region. Currently the only option for farmers to increase production is to increase the land they cultivate, but this is detrimental to the environment, and unworkable in the very limited landmass of the Caribbean Islands.

NRI, with a wealth of expertise in insect behaviour, chemical ecology and pollination biology, will be looking specifically at how the cocoa plants are naturally pollinated, an area of research that has previously been overlooked. [. . .]

Scientists Steve Belmain, Phil Stevenson and Sarah Arnold at NRI will examine the behaviour of insects visiting the cocoa flowers, to determine which species are the most important. Evidence from studies done decades ago suggest midges carry out most of the pollination, but research is needed to help understand their importance, ensure their survival and identify other potential pollinators.

One of the goals of NRI’s involvement in this project is to understand how to artificially breed midges that will increase yields of cocoa, thereby increasing farmer incomes without the need to expand cocoa plantations. [. . .]

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One thought on “Insects, Pollination, and Cocoa Production in the Caribbean

  1. Reblogged this on bearspawprint and commented:
    The same poisons that poison other insects poison bees. It seems, to me. that if we want to have bees, and other polinators, we must also have mosquitoes and flies. That is, until we are clever enough to figure out non toxic and selective methods of controlling pests.


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