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Coffee – does it get a buzz from bees?

New research project looks at influence of insect pollination

Feb 16, 2018
Colombian coffee is renowned for its fine quality. But to what extent is coffee bean quality and production influenced by insect pollination? A new collaboration aims to find out.

Colombian coffee is renowned for its fine quality. But to what extent is coffee bean quality and production influenced by insect pollination? A new collaboration aims to find out.

Coffee, the fragrant aroma of fresh-ground, flavorful beans and the smooth, rich taste have made this one of the most popular drinks in the western world … any time of day. And Colombian coffee is right up there with the major, fine coffees and producers when we think of quality and production around the world.

So what can insect pollination bring, if anything, to the already world-renowned Colombian coffee?

This is the main question of a new scientific project. On Monday 5th February, Bayer Bee Care signed a collaborative agreement with the Colombian Coffee Grower Federation’s research center CENICAFE to look at whether insect pollination has any influence on production or quality of Coffea arabica beans. There are several species of Coffea and arabica produces the finest quality, thought to be the result of a wide variety of factors. One such factor is pollination and, although Coffea arabica is a self-pollinating crop, it is believed that insect pollination may bring additional benefits.

 
Dr. Alvaro Gaitan, Director General of Cenicafe; Dr. Juliana Jaramillo, Bee Care scientist; Dr. Pablo Benavides, Head of the Entomology Department at Cenicafe and Dr. Zulma Gil, Principal Scientist at the Entomology Department and scientific counterpart in the coffee project

Following the successful launch of the project, (from l. – r.); Dr. Alvaro Gaitan, Director General of Cenicafe; Dr. Juliana Jaramillo, Bee Care scientist; Dr. Pablo Benavides, Head of the Entomology Department at Cenicafe and Dr. Zulma Gil, Principal Scientist at the Entomology Department and scientific counterpart in the coffee project.

“In this project, we will be looking to see if we can quantify the influence that insect pollination may have on yield and quality of coffee beans in three different regions across Colombia,” explains Dr. Juliana Jaramillo, scientist at the Bee Care Center, who travelled to the country for the signing of the collaboration agreement and to see the project get underway.

The climate and overall landscape across Colombia changes significantly from North to South, so we will look at whether the influence of insect pollination is the same or differs in three major coffee-growing areas. These have contrasting environmental conditions and, hence, a different diversity of pollinators surrounding the coffee plantations.

“We are delighted to be working with CENICAFE on such a well-known brand of coffee,” said Juliana Jaramillo on a field trip to choose the plantations where the study will be conducted.
It is hoped that the findings may contribute to a better understanding of the role pollinators play in ensuring that tasty cup of coffee we enjoy every day.

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