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How do flowers turn into fruits? The pollination process in fruit trees.

Published on November 25, 2020

honeybee flying over flower

Reproduction is essential for sustaining all forms of life – where would all of us be without it?

Have you ever wondered how fruit trees reproduce and produce fruit?

The key to growing successful and productive fruit trees is pollination. This is something you must consider before you decide to plant fruit trees.

What is pollination?

A typical flower is a fascinating structure, Isn’t it? But have you ever thought, inside it, there is a series of complex processes that are essential for fruit set?

If you take a close look at the flower you will see that it consists of a circle of green sepals (calyx), within this is a circle of petals (corolla). The corolla surrounds the sexual organs of flowering plants. The male reproductive part of the flowering plant is called the stamen, which bears anthers containing pollen at the tips. Typical pollen is a tough coated fine powdery substance that contains male sex cells that are used to fertilize the female reproductive part.

The female reproductive part is called the ‘carpel’. The carpel is made of an egg containing ovary and a style that protrudes from it. It also contains a pollen receiving structure called ‘stigma’ that is located at the tip of the style. When pollen through any means reaches the stigma, it produces a fertilization tube through the style to fertilize the ovule.

flowers reproductive system
Image source: Sciencefacts.net
So, in simple words pollination is the process of moving pollen from the anther to stigma, either in the same or a different flower to produce fruit.

But how does the pollen move from the male reproductive part to the female part?

The pollination process requires a carrier that can move the pollen from anther to stigma. The carriers/pollinators can be wind, animals, and human interventions that carry the pollens from one flower to another flower or one tree to another tree.

How does pollination work in fruit trees?

Most of the fruit trees require pollination between more than one tree for the fruit set. Pollination occurs at the blooming stage. For pollination to occur the pollens from anthers must be transferred to the stigma. If pollination does not occur the flowers will grow but not the fruit, but complete pollination fertilizes the fruit trees, and they start setting fruits.

Pollens can be carried from one tree to the other by animals (birds), wind, or insects. The most common pollen carrier in fruit trees is the honeybee. Honeybees gather nectar from the flowers of different fruit trees to prepare honey. These honeybees carry pollen with their bodies and whenever they land on a different fruit tree, they carry the pollens along with them. A honeybee visits over 5000 flowers in a day to collect nectar.

Pollination is of two types: self-pollination and cross-pollination. When the honeybees help to transfer the pollen from male anther to female stigma of the same tree or the same flower it is called ‘self-pollination’. Almost all common varieties of peaches, apricots, sour cherry, and nectarine are self-pollinating.

When the honeybees transfer the pollen from the male anther of a tree to the female stigma of another tree or flower it is called ‘cross-pollination’. Apples, sweet cherry, plum, and pears are cross-pollinating. All varieties of these fruit trees need a different tree for pollination, and not from the same cultivar but a different cultivar of the same fruit tree. Moreover, both the fruit trees must blossom at the same time so that the honeybees can successfully cross-pollinate them.

In many cases, even if the fruit trees are compatible for pollination several other factors can hinder the process. High winds, lack of rain, and other weather changes can cause bud damage before the trees bloom. The flower buds in the fruit trees appear in the fall. Excessively cold winter and late spring frost is sufficient to kill the buds and blossoms. Therefore, it is important to select a fruit tree according to your climatic zone.


How to ensure successful pollination in fruit trees?

For successful pollination, it is important to maintain healthy fruit trees. Weak and sick trees will fail to develop buds and ultimately fail to pollinate. There are several ways you must follow to ensure successful pollination in fruit trees.

  1. Do not plant fruit trees more than a distance of 10 feet from each other to ensure successful pollination.
  2. Consider planting the trees at a place where fallen fruits don’t make a problem away from driveways, sidewalks, and driveways. Harvest the fruit in time, fruits that will not be picked in time will eventually fall on the ground.
  3. Don’t fertilize immediately after planting the trees. When the trees are put into the ground they go through a shock. So, the application of fertilizers at this stage can burn the tender roots.
  4. Water the trees after planting.
  5. Spread a 4-feet diameter pine bark mulch that is around 6 inches deep around the tree to conserve soil moisture.
  6. Avoid using hardwood bark because it can release acids that can lower nitrogen levels in the soil and ultimately weaken the trees.
  7. Fertilize the trees with a slow-release fertilizer once they are established in the soil. It will promote healthy root growth and tree growth with a strong bud setting that will ultimately lead to better pollination.
  8. Don’t let the tree go dry as it can cause a weak bud setting and early flower drop. It will lead to poor pollination and no fruit set. Give them water once a weak during the dry period, particularly during the first 2 years after planting. Apply plenty of water to soak the top several inches of the soil.
  9. Insect pests or mites can attack and weaken the trees and damage the buds. Spray the trees with dormant oils to throw away mites. Spray the oils on the tree when they are in a dormant phase.
  10. Remove the nearby broadleaf weed flowers and dandelions so that the honeybees don’t get attracted towards them resulting in poor pollination.
  11. Do not apply pesticides or chemicals during the blooming phase. Honeybees are susceptible to all types of pesticides. The pesticides can damage the insect population and result in poor to no pollination at all.

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