By Mubashir Hafeez, Mujahid Ali, Dr. Rashad M. Balal
(Horticulture, College of Agriculture, UOS)
Date palm is among oldest fruits mentioned in history. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) liked this fruit. Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah’s Apostle never proceeded (for the prayer) on the Day of ‘Id-ul-Fitr unless he had eaten some dates. Anas also narrated: The Prophet used to eat the odd number of dates. (Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 15 Hadith 73). Narrated Sad: Allah’s Apostle said, “He who eats seven ‘Ajwa dates every morning, will not be affected by poison or magic on the day he eats them.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari – Book 65 Hadith 356). Highly nutrition fruit having a lot of calories. Fruits are very beneficial for our health. They keep our body healthy and tight. Date palm fruit process high nutritional therapeutic value. In addition, with significant anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-proliferative properties. Also contains the properties with potential anti-cancer activity and resveratrol is reported to extend lifespan and provide cardio-neuro-protective anti-diabetic effects. Dates serve directly as a food source. Date palm is the oldest tree cultivated on earth. They are an excellent source of calcium, sugar, iron, and potassium. They are used in many social and religious festivals. Also, they have many health benefits like reliving constipation, reduce heart disease, control diarrhea and help in pregnancy. It is also used for making different products such as Chutney, pickles, jam, juice and other bakery items.
Date palm has a fibrous root system that originates from a bulb at the trunk base. The primary roots have an average length of 4 meters and may extend to 10 meters in light soils. Primary roots give rise to secondary roots that further branch to form tertiary roots that are shorter in length and diameter. The trunk of the date palm is a single, vertical cylinder of equal (average 1 m) throughout its length that reaches 30 m. The stem is covered with leaf bases that are enclosed in fiber. Date palm leaves, called fronds, are pinnate, compound leaves spirally arranged around the trunk. The fully mature is 4 m long, but ranges from 3 to 6 m, and is 0.5 m wide at the middle midrib that narrows towards both leaves end. Date palm is a dioecious plant where pistillate and staminate flowers are born on separate plants. Male and female flowers are arranged in strands that attach to a rachis forming an inflorescence called spadix. A bract, called spathe, enclosing the immature inflorescence, splits longitudinally at anthesis, which allows for the pollination. Male spathes shorter and wider than female spathes which contain 10,000 to 15,000 flowers having sweet scent while female spathes are longer and thinner than male spathes which contain 2000 to 3000 beads like flowers.
It is mostly cultivated in Muslim countries. Top producing countries are Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan, Sudan, Oman, UAE, Tunisia. Most common varieties are Ajwa, Mabroom, Hillawi, Khardrawi, Zaidi, Aseel, Dhaki, Shakri, Hussaini, Berni, Shamran (Sayer), Wild date palm, Jamli, Khalas, Begum, and Jangi. Fruits of date palm, called dates, develop from one fertilized ovule forming one carpal, while the other two ovules are aborted but remain visible at the fruit calyx. Fruit size is varying in size, weight 2- 60 g, length 18-110 mm, and girth 8-32 mm. Its single seed weight has 0.5-4 g, length 12-36 mm, girth 6-13 mm and has a groove and its hard endosperm composed of cellulose. In Pakistan, it is mostly cultivated in Sindh province. Sakhar, a city of Sindh, has its biggest market.
Inland preparation, plow land thoroughly for twice to thrice times and bring soil to a fine tilth. Then we level the soil. Dig pits of 1m x 1m x 1m size in the summer month. Keep open these pits for two weeks and then fill it by adding well decomposed fertile soil. Some important climatic factors that can affect the yield and quality of fruit are temperature, rainfall, humidity, light, and wind. The normal requirement for date palm cultivation is high temperature, much sunlight, low humidity, low rainfall and absence of high winds. It can tolerate quite a low temperature, but the growth will have ceased below 10°C. It is resistant to heat and may tolerate up to 58°C for short period. The prevailing temperature during ripening: 45-50°C, blooming occurs only when the temperature rises above 18°C. That’s why earlier varieties are produced where the temperature first rises above 18°C, where it is attained later, late fruit production. Fruit setting and fruit development take place only when the temperature is above 25°C. date palm grows well in light, deep, well-drained soils. Rocky, calcareous soils and compact soils are not suitable for its cultivation. It may also grow on soil affected by salinity, but highly saline soils are not suitable for its commercial cultivation.
The date palm can propagate both sexually and asexually. Through seed don’t produce true-to-type fruit and take a longer time to bloom. While asexually it is propagated through suckers that generally emerge from an underground part of the stem. Rooted suckers carefully removed and from mother plant for further propagation. Suckers weighing 18-20 kg or 3-5 years old propagate successfully. Suckers removal times is Feb – March or August- September and are planted in the square system at 7 m which require 3% male trees at various location in orchards for successful propagation. The number of seedlings will be 112 if 8-meter distance kept among row to row and plant to plant. Then according to this method, 62 seedlings are suggested in one 1 acre of field. Seedling treatment is done by dipping shoots in Chlorpyrifos@5ml per one liter of water.
Water requirement of date palm tree varies with climatic conditions, water table, soil type and age of the plant. It needs more watering during fruit development and newly planted orchard require daily watering minimum once in a month. Already established orchards require watering during fruit development and once a month during rest of the year. Deep cultivation under and beside the tree should be avoided because it may damage its root system. Harrowing and slightly plowing is helpful to control the weeds. In summer irrigation is an interval of 10-15 days and in winter, it will be 30 the interval of 30-40 days.
No special pruning required except the removal of dropped leaves. In few vigorous tree and cultivars, gree found are also removed to decrease the effect of humid micro-environment around the fruiting branches. e.g. Deglet Noor. The removal of bunches is not practiced. Removal of spines decreases the puncturing of fruit growth and it will facilitate proper pollination. In fertilizer requirements, 20kg FYM is applied before plantation. During the age of 1-2-year, 1/4 kg urea is needed. For the 3-4 year: FYM, Urea, DAP, and SOP are applied 10 kg, 0.5 kg, 1/4 kg and 100 g respectively. While fruit-bearing tree requirements are different. At the age of 7-10-year-old, FYM (35-40 kg), Urea(2Kg), DAP (3/4 kg) and SOP (500 g) needed. At 12-year-old, 35-40 kg FYM, 3 Kg Urea, 1/5 kg DAP and 2 Kg SOP will be needed.
Vegetables, rice, brinjal, and gum can be used as for intercrop in date palm orchard. 4-5 years after planting, the 1st crop of the date palm is harvested. The 3 important harvesting stages are Khalal (Doka in Urdu), ripened stage or commonly known as pind and 3rd stage is final or dry stage known as Chuhara. Harvesting should be completed before the starting season of monsoon rainfall because rain is not good especially at harvesting or mature stage.