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DATE PALM IN EGYPT…THE REALITY AND THE HOPED

 DATE PALM IN EGYPT…THE REALITY AND THE HOPED

A Scientific Research Paper

               By

Prof. Karim Mohammad Faraj

Pomology Professor, Horticulture Department

Faculty of Agriculture- Damanhur University, Arab Republic of Egypt

 

In spite of the international position Egypt is occupying among dates producing countries, a lot could be developed for improving date palm quality and productivity. A look at the real production procedures would show that workers involved in agricultural and field practices are still adopting some of what they have inherited from their fathers and grandfathers and which negatively affects productivity and quality and nutritionally weakens the tree, such as thinning of bunches late in the composting phase and during summer, which means straining of the palm tree and throwing a lot of the nutrition on the ground at the bottom of the tree. Therefore; there is an urgent need to provide training, to correct some wrong concepts and to implement the appropriate timetable in order to get the best genetic ability available in date palm, as almost no palm tree fulfils the required ratio between the number of fronds and that of bunches and which is reflected of the various estuaries of the palm including, of course, the trunk condition, extent of flowery transformation and unfolding and contact processes.

Most agricultural practices depend on climbing of the trunk and conducting the job manually. Consequently; the worker would try to minimize the number of climbs for completing pollination without any prior knowledge of the so-called effective pollination period and expiry of the egg’s lifetime and is thus reflected in failure of contact and reduced crop. Furthermore, failure to adopt a specific planting system and random planting of the trees around the edges of the field consist a major obstacle towards utilization of the available mechanization systems such as mechanical pollination or for trimming of fronds or separation of some seedlings which become very difficult to do. It is also difficult to apply the rations of mineral fertilization or the appropriate irrigation rates. Separation of seedlings and offshoots is also so much neglected that they reach big sizes and reduce air movement causing increase in relative humidity around the bunches and imbalance between water loss and absorption, increasing thereby physiological imbalances in the fruits such as blotting and the black nose or edge. A lot do not understand the concept of metaxenia effect of the used pollen type as they mix many types of pollens, both from unknown progenies or certain more virile varieties. Many of them do not know much about the concept of inherent incompatibility of various degrees in date palm while others exaggerate in applying some procedures to increase contact such as bagging after pollination or sleeving upon start of full growth on no scientific ground or without taking into consideration the production area and whether it is coastal, humid, inland or desert which cause rotting of a lot of fruits. 

Adopting scientific principles in handling of post harvested fruits is very limited. Handling, packing and storage operations depend on judgments and simulation of packing and wrapping methods without understanding the fruit needs for primary cooling, cold storage or the required drying rates for reducing the water content which lead to over-stiffness of the date fruits and to an urgent need to re-expose them to steam in some importing areas. Adopting primitive methods also leads to pollution of the fruits and to higher losses. Moreover; no least idea might be available about the very nature of the fruits and whether they are climacteric with ripening breathing or non-climacteric, in spite of the difference between both types as far as requirements and handling are concerned.

Production of semi-dried fruits at the Egyptian Siwa Oasis represents the first economic crop at that oasis which is distinguished by the variety of innate life and where more than 300,000 date palm trees are grown. Almost all those trees depend on flood irrigation despite the fact that ground water is the sole water resource. Siwa economy is therefore dependent on dates and then olive. Most dates are semi-dry and are being produced from seed progenies of desired genetic traits and, consequently, not varieties in the scientific sense of the word. Nevertheless; a lot of Siwa dates are of desired qualities and even preferable to the Egyptian consumer. Because of this very fact, it is important to consider date palm trees of Siwa as very important genetic origins that should be preserved from extinction through modern scientific techniques and in need for an immediate scientific program for micro proliferation through plant tissue cultures. Scientific programs should be also worked out for development of date palm cultivation at Siwa so as to stop random cultivation and care of date palm at that beautiful oasis.  

Increasing scientific understanding and awareness of date palm, planned work, well studied training programs and adopting modern production techniques in the field and after harvesting could add a lot to what is hoped from this important crop which is considered one of the most important guarantees of sustainable agricultural production in the Arab Republic of Egypt.

 

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