TASMANIA, APRIL 10, 2021 – Manuka honey, produced from the nectar of the Tasmanian native Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium), is being bred for high-quality medicinal honey.
A collaboration between Douglas River Honey, the University of Tasmania and the CRC for Honey Bee Products has been exploring the genetic diversity across the state and capturing it in a series of trials for growth and flowering comparison and nectar selection.
The trials were established in two separate locations in 2017 and 2018, using seeds collected from approximately 50 sites throughout Tasmania. The outcomes indicate the potential of this plant being domesticated to increase production of another high value honey product for this state.
Chris Wellington, the PhD student leading this work, noted, “It’s exciting that we are discovering that the plant qualities important for production of medicinal honey are strongly genetically controlled, which means future selection and breeding efforts can help us optimise honey quality.”
In addition, a new, reliable method for analysing nectar components has been developed to allow for more efficient screening of large numbers of plants and identification of valuable genetic stock. Interest in developing Tasmania’s native Leptospermum’s for honey production was initiated by project supervisor and CSIRO researcher, Dr Anthony O’ Grady.
Already, Tasmania is known for its Leatherwood honey production. Increasing the production of high-quality Manuka honey will help the fast-growing honey bee industry in Tasmania. Considering that honey bees are the main pollinator for Tasmania’s expanding agriculture sector, this is good news all around.
The CRC for Honey Bee Products gathers researchers together to tackle the issues contributing to Australia’s undervalued honey bee industry. The CRC also provides opportunity, training and support to the local beekeeping community.
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Photos: by A.C.I Capture