Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bill's Tomato flowers

I have an old friend, Bill. Bill must be 80 plus and very deaf. I don’t remember when we first met but whenever I attend the nursery industry’s monthly trade day Bill makes a point of stopping to say hello.
In December Bill asked me why the flowers on his Tomatoes were dropping off and no fruit was developing. Now the standard reply is “no pollination, possibly no bees”.
The options are to tap the flowers with a pencil or finger to release the pollen. If you are really serious, a fine brush will pick up pollen from one flower and release it on another. Plant breeders still regularly use the brush method to ensure they can control which pollen lands on which flower. Greenhouse Tomato growers use a vibrator on the plant stems to release the pollen; this option always raises a smile.
The question remains, why are there no bees in Bill’s back yard?
Bill came to say hello at trade day this week. “You don’t know how stupid I’ve been” he tells me.
“Why do you say that?”
”Well, you know you told me the bees were not pollinating my Tomatoes?” I must admit I had forgotten. “Well it turns out that the Tomato plants are next to the lemon tree. I had put a sticky trap out for the citrus gall wasps and what do you think was stuck all over the trap? ..... Bees!”
I must be honest I am surprised that Bill’s sticky trap caught so many bees. I thought that traps are really designed for monitoring populations, not controlling them but it just goes to show how little things can throw nature off balance

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