hand pollination

Ever wondered how a plant forms fruits from flowers? Or how a tree spreads its dynasty and sprouts up younglings all over an area? That sorcery is ‘pollination’! Read more to learn about this.

Hand pollination
Cross-Pollination process by bees

What is pollination? It’s the transfer of the fertilizing powder or pollen formed in the anthers of flowers to the stigma. What then follows is fertilization, which is a boon of nature. Clearly, pollination forms an inseparable part of the process of fruit manufacturing.

Natural Pollination challenges:

However, you must have observed that at times a plant forms flowers that bloom fully and then simply falls off from the plant. Apart from the male flowers that do not form fruit, if you see female flowers also fall off this way, then it is cause for concern. Cramped spaces and balcony gardens in concrete jungles exhibit one thing in common: the lack of insect traffic that forms an intricate network in the process of pollination and the low density of crosswinds resulting in lack of pollinators. Pollinator decline and concentrated pollination needs of monoculture may also be other factors in pollination shortage.

Hand Pollination:

Hand pollination or mechanical pollination is a technique used when natural pollination is insufficient or undesirable. You could also adopt hand pollination to avoid cross-pollination among varieties cultivated together or conversely, in the controlled production of hybrids.

Hand Pollination
Hand Pollinating Water-Melon flowers

Hand Pollination using a Watercolor brush:

A small watercolor brush or a soft brush may be handy for the job. Also, before applying this it is essential to know whether the plant is self pollinating or cross pollinating. For example, tomatoes and peppers undergo self pollination i.e. a flower has all the plant parts needed to make a fruit. On the other hand, a few vine crops like zucchini, produce separate male and female flowers.

For a self-pollinating plant, brush inside each flower, ensuring the pollen sticks to the pistil (middle part) of the flower. For a cross pollinating plant, brush up a little pollen from the male flower and transfer it to the pistil on a female flower. Alternatively, picking the male flower and shaking pollen right into the female one does wonders!

Hand pollination using a paint brush
Hand pollination using a paint brush

Advantages of Hand Pollination:

While hand pollination can be seen as an alternative for natural pollination, it comes endowed with several advantages as well!

  1. It  is useful in controlling the parents of a seed. For example, all F1 hybrids are the result of pollinating one specific variety with another specific variety, in order to produce a uniform crop.
  2. Some high-value crops are covered with rows of mesh to bar pests and insects from accessing it. This makes it necessary to hand pollinate the blooms.

Some examples of hand-pollination:

  • Tomatoes need the simple aid of shaking. Generally, tomatoes produced in greenhouses demand aid in pollination, which is offered by hand or with an electric toothbrush for a long time.

    Hand Pollination
    Hand Pollinating Tomato flowers using a cotton bud
  • Date palms need hand pollination to prevent wastage of a lot of space and energy by limiting the number of male plants.
  • Pears grown in China have seen hand-pollination since regional bees were wiped out by pesticides. Although, even when the bees were present, they were still hand pollinated to bear better fruits.

So, if you want to be sure that your veggie flower grows into a fruit, try hand pollination and you’ll be amazed at the results!

Happy Gardening

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