Plant and Food Research scientists and collaborators from the US have compiled more than 30 years of field-based data from kiwifruit research to create "digital twins" of pollination processes in kiwifruit orchards, and have used these to predict how growers can optimise their fruit set. The research indicates that increasing the proportion of female flowers in a kiwifruit orchard may boost production.
Digital twins are virtual replicas of physical systems - in this case mathematical models of the biology of the plants and the behaviour of pollinating bees. These digital twins gave researchers the ability to examine complex scenarios which examine multiple, intertwined factors at once.
These types of trials were difficult or impossible to test in field—running a full combination of even six variables would require more kiwifruit orchards than exist in New Zealand.
Using this digital twin, the researchers predicted that optimal fruit set was achieved with 60-75 per cent female flowers in the orchard; something that growers could achieve by select pruning of male flowers.
Most pollination benefit was gained from the first six-eight honey bees/1000 flowers, with diminishing returns thereafter.