A Canadian company is making headway in the spray world with six-legged applicators.
Bee Vectoring Technologies (BVT) uses commercially-reared bees to deliver crop controls through pollination. Its first registered product, Clonostachys rosea CR-7 (CR-7), is an organic strain of an endophytic fungus the company says has many functions, including:
- Controlling numerous diseases in plants, particularly fungal pathogens like botrytis and sclerotinia;
- Helping the plant increase resistance to disease and environmental stresses;
- Enhancing plant growth; and
- Improving the shelf life of berries of BVT-CR7 treated flowers (due to the natural built-in protection against disease).
How it works
A removable-tray is inserted into commercially-reared hives, and serves as the exit point for bees heading out to forage. The tray contains a bee-safe substance BVT has called ‘Vectorite’ which adheres to the bees’ hairy legs and bodies, enabling them to transport active ingredients (crop controls, beneficial fungi, or bacteria, or third-party inoculant) to the blooms of a crop, as they pollinate. Vectorite is made up of organic ingredients found on American and Canadian certified organic lists, and is not a food source for the bees.
Both bumblebees and honey bees can be used to deliver crop protection products, though the company says bumblebees tend to be a better option indoors, and in certain crop situations, as they are less aggressive, can carry more powder, fly in colder and wetter climates, and have longer-lasting hives.
Periodically, trays are replaced “to replenish the depleted inoculum,” prevent infections in the bees, and avoid packing and clumping in the trays.
The system offers many benefits, according to BVT, including:
- Using no water;
- A highly targeted application, reducing the amount of active ingredients added to the environment;
- Little waste through manufacturing;
- Reduced drift into water sources and unintended plants; and
- The added benefit of a higher number of pollinators.
BVT’s technology is currently used primarily in blueberries, strawberries, almonds, and sunflowers, in the U.S. Canola is on the list of crops to target, and the company hopes to do more work in canola next summer.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved CR-7 for use as a fungicide on commercial crops. The product is currently in trials in Canada, with the company estimating approval could take a year to a year and a half, depending on the review process.