Various types of pollination occur in seed plants. As to plant-to-plant pollen transfer, two types exist: self-pollination and cross-pollination. Classification has also been made according to agents of pollination.
Having sufficient understanding about these pollination mechanisms are important in crop agriculture. Knowing the normal mode of pollination of any crop can accelerate crop improvement works because plant breeding methods are pollination type-dependent. Proper cultural management practices, such as in relation to pests and diseases control and biodiversity, can be identified to favor populations of animal pollinators.
The process of pollination preceeds fruit and seed formation in the angiosperms and seed formation in the gymnosperms. Both fruits and seeds perform functions in plant reproduction. In particular, the seeds serve as the major, immediate, direct progenitors of new plants. In addition, many agricultural crops are grown for the primary purpose of producing either fruits or seeds or both.
Pollination is the transfer of pollen grains (male gametophyte or microgametophyte) from an anther to a stigma in the angiosperms. In the gymnosperms, it is the transfer of pollen grains from a microsporophyll (in the male cone in the conifers) to the micropyle of an ovule (in the female cone in the conifers).
Self-pollination in the angiosperms is a type of pollination which occurs in a single plant either in two ways: within the same flower (also called intrafloral pollination) or between two flowers. In contrast, cross-pollination is the transfer of pollen from the anther in a flower in one plant to the stigma in a separate flower in another plant. Cross-pollination, therefore, necessarily involves two flowers and two plants.
Consequently, self-pollination results to inbreeding
or selfing in which gametes carrying identical gene constitution are united. In
contrast, cross-pollination leads to the union of unidentical gametes in the
breeding system called outbreeding,
also called outcrossing, allogamy, or xenogamy (Simpson 2010).
Various types of pollination have also been identified based on the vectors of pollen grains or agents of pollination. These pollinators are described under two main classifications: (1) abiotic, i.e, nonliving pollinators, and (2) biotic, i.e., living pollinators. The abiotic pollinators are the wind and water, the latter with a limited occurence to a few aquatic plants.
The biotic pollinators refer to various animal species with insects as the most dominant. However, plant species may be either specialists or generalists (bio.fsu.edu 2013). Specialists are those having floral features which attract a single type of pollinator while generalists are those which attract many pollinators.
In the gymnosperms (Cycadophyta, Ginkgophyta, Pinophyta, and Gnetophyta), pollination is mainly carried out by wind. But in the angiosperms, the most dominant agent of pollination is animal, particularly insects of which the bees are common in many plant species.
A list of various types of pollination and the respective pollen vectors involved are provided below. The technical terms were obtained from Simpson (2010). Some representative plants are cited from Moore et al. (2003), Simpson (2010), and bio.fsu.edu (2013).
In addition, the Australian honey-possum, a tiny mammal, feeds on pollen and nectar and in the process pollinates the coral gum (Eucalyptus sp.) (Moore et al. (2003). Fig (Ficus) is pollinated by gall wasps (bio.fsu.edu, 2013).
BIO.FSU.EDU. 2013. Chapter 4: Pollen vectors and pollination syndromes. Retrieved Nov. 24, 2013 from http://bio.fsu.edu/~winn/3402L/WinnCH4.html.
MOORE R, CLARK WD, VODOPICH DS. 2003. Botany. 2nd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. p. 398-401.
SIMPSON MG. 2010. Plant Systematics. 2nd ed. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Inc. p. 573-584.