Pollen and spores are biological structures functioning as a container that protects genetic material during transfer in the reproduction process. Since pollen is closely related to flowering and reproduction,it could be found where ever there are seed plants. Therefore knowing pollen helps researchers describe distribution of plants and vegetation. Therefore pollen is “nature’s fingerprint of plants”.
Pollen is quite resilient biological structure and can be found in various media (i.e. air, soil, animal digestive system, honey and even fossilized in rocks). BioSense Institute researchers extract pollen from air, honey and even from insects (including pollen grains brought to hive by honeybees). Pollen retrieved from insect guts or poop can help revealing feeding habits for the species of interest. On the other hand pollen attached to the body could tell us which flowers animal visits and how it performs in pollination of major crops (i.e. apples, oilseed rape and sunflower).
Due to complex feeding relationship between insects and plants, it is often difficult to interpret pollen analysis results For example, a vast number of factors influence the quality and quantity of nectar collected by bees during their forage. Therefore, for the most accurate identification of nectar sources in analyzed honey must take into account sensory analysis supported by detailed chemical fingerprinting. Synergy between IT and conventional pollen analysis is the way to move beyond the state of the art. Automated image analysis and identification, currently being developed at BioSense, will speed up the pollen identification while sensors for specific volatiles and tools like eNose will help interpreting results clearly showing the proportion of nectar coming from various plant species. Spatial analysis of the insect forage area will contribute to better understanding of the pollination process and its efficiency in large agricultural setups. Bio Sense Institute is striving to merge conventional and modern analytical techniques and offer them as simple tools to end users (i.e. beekeeping industry, food industry, quality control services).
Pollen brought by bees into the hive clearly indicates the plants visited by insects in their foraging area. Researchers from the BioSense Institute discovered the relationship between large linden forests on Fruska gora mountain and pollen content in the honey produced in this geographical region. As a result, distinctively high percentage of linden pollen has been established as an unique marker for the protection of geographical origin of lime tree honey produced at Fruska gora.