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Information sourced from www.rirdc.gov.au

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    Lucerne

Below is an extract from a pollination research paper prepared by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC).  To download the document, simply click on the image on the left of this screen.

Lucerne flowers must be ‘tripped' for fertilisation to occur and seed to be produced.  Tripping involves the release of the sexual column from the keel of the flower and is a prerequisite for effective pollination.  Tripping is usually caused when nectar- or pollen-collecting insects, such as honey bees, alight on the flower.  Research both in Australia and overseas has shown that honey bees are efficient in increasing seed set in flowering lucerne crops (Somerville 2002), probably as a result of the intensity of their foraging and the frequency of the tripping they cause to occur.

Experiments conducted in Australia by Mothorpe and Jones (1988) found that physically excluding honey bees from lucerne crops resulted in significantly reduced seed yield (kg/ha) compared to open or free access plots of lucerne.  By physically enclosing honey bees over a lucerne crop, seed yield almost doubled as a result of honey bees having little alternative source of nutrition thus being forced to forage on lucerne thus tripping flowers and setting seed.  A similar pattern of seed yield was seen in investigations by Doull (1961) again conducted in Australia

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