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Bee Craft





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The tomato was introduced to Britain from its native habitat in South America during the 16th century. It soon became a popular culinary item, and a look at the shelves of any supermarket will show how important a part of our diet it has become. Tomatoes are a common flavouring in tinned and dried foods and the fresh fruits are a best seller at any salad bar. However, apart from "value for money", the customer expects ripe tomatoes to have a good taste, a pleasant aroma, an attractive colour, a firm texture and to be neither too big, nor too small. To cope with demand and to ensure the production of high quality fruit, tomatoes are grown under glass by specialized growers using "state-of-the-art" technology. Computer-based systems are used to control most of the environmental variables. Plants receive optimum growing conditions, though it is necessary to influence the control by reference to the likely costs and benefits. Carbon dioxide is added to the greenhouse atmosphere to encourage the formation of sugars and to improve output. Automatic heating and ventilation are used to maintain temperatures to within 0.5°C of those in the "blueprint" regime recommended by the A.D.A.S. One of-the many factors that influence the amount of fruit harvested is the pollination of the flower trusses. Unless sufficient pollen is transferred from the anthers to the stigma, the fruit will be small and misshapen or indeed the flowers may fail to set fruit. Vibrating each truss mechanically with an ''Electric Bee" is the favoured method for improving pollination. However, this is a rather tedious and time consuming task which risks damaging the flowers and the developing fruits.

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