As bees and their pollination services become increasingly endangered, California farmers are experimenting with a self-fertilizing almond tree that requires few or no bees at all. The tree may lessen the burden on bees carted around to pollinate our crops, yet may create new burdens for beekeepers.
Independence almond trees are quite appealing to farmers. They are said to be very easy to harvest and grow a delicious nut for hungry consumers. But the real time- and money-saving perk is that the trees fertilize themselves, eliminating the need o hire beekeepers to help pollinate their crops.
Given that colony collapse disorder has devastated 40 percent of the West’s population of honeybees, some providers see the rise of the Independence tree as a good thing. The less strain put on the bees, the more potential for them to flourish. Others in the bee industry are worried about the financial impact of self-fertilizing crops.
The farmers themselves are seeing savings in time and resources with the new trees. Less time harvesting means more time for other duties, and they’re saving the expense of hiring bees, which costs an average of $360 to pollinate each acre of crops. Ben Barra, a farmer in California, says he seen an increase in his yield since investing in Independence almond trees a few years ago. “You can’t believe it,” he says. “The first year we did 6,000 [pounds], and then we did 17,000 [pounds]. Last year we did 31,000 [pounds].”
The new trees may be great for farmers, but beekeepers may be feeling the sting.