Dr. Faisal Hafeez, Aisha Iftikhar, Muhammad Sohaib, Ayesha Arshad
Ayub Agricultural Research Institute, (AARI), Faisalabad
Scientific name: Phoenix dactylifera L.
Dates are usually found in desert environment. There are almost 220 varieties of dates, about which 20 are commercially worthwhile. Dates are considered widespread food in the Middle East. Major portion of the Middle East is not suitable for date palm production. Among few crops, it grows well in the desert. They are designated as the “tree of life.”
Pakistan is 5th country in production of dates. Its annual production is 0.73 million tonnes of world’s production. Its common name is ‘khajoor.’ The major date producing areas are Bannu, Dera Ismael khan and sakhar. The production of D.I khan is 4002 tonnes. Dates are regarded as primitive crops. During Ramadan, dates have been traditionally used by Muslims to break their fast. Date fruits are oval-cylindrical in shape having length of 3–7 cm (1.2–2.8 inches), and diameter of 2–3 cm (0.79–1.18 inches) and on ripening, it becomes bright red to bright yellow in colour, depending upon variety. There is single stone present in date fruit, of about 2–2.5 cm (0.8–1.0 inches) long and 6–8 mm (0.2–0.3 inches) thick.
Two thirds of the world’s dates are provided by the Middle East. In world, the major date producing countries are Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.
Description of Date palm tree:
Usually the height of date palm tree is 21–23 metres (69–75 ft). The tree grows single or forming a clump with several stems. The leaves have length of 4–6 metres (13–20 ft) having spines on the petiole. The length of leaflets is 30 cm (12 inches) and 2 cm (0.79 inches) of width.
The date palm is dioecious in nature means that having separate male and female plants. The sowing of date palm is easy from seed, but it may be of poor quality. Thus, most marketable farms use cuttings from well growing cultivars. The Plants which are grown from cuttings give fruit 2–3 years earlier than the seedling plants.
There are two ways of pollination in date palms that is natural and artificial pollination. The pollination in dates naturally occur through wind, but in traditional and modern orchards, manual pollination is done. The equal numbers of male and female plants are required for natural pollination. But, only one male can pollinate up to 100 females. As the males are valuable as pollinators, so growers use for many fruit producing female plants. According to requirement, some growers even don’t grow any male plants, as these are available at local markets. But manual pollination is done by skilled persons or through wind machines.
Uses of dates:
In harsh conditions, dates are valuable source of food. They are very rich source of vitamins, electrolytes, minerals and Phyto-nutrients etc.
- The fibre in dates helps in preventing constipation.
- Dates also improve heart condition including its functioning.
- One of their effective benefits is to maintain cholesterol level.
- Dates are important source of copper, magnesium and manganese, all of them are important for human bones.
- They also maintain blood pressure and improves human brain health.
- They promote energy in body and help in gaining of body weight.
- They prevent hair losses and contain vitamin C and D that improves skin elasticity.
Major insect pests of date palm
There are following major insect pest od date palm;
Lesser date moth:
Batrachedra amydraula is a major pest of date palm and causes 50-75% losses. Damage is done by larvae that makes web around fruits. Larvae enters the fruit and damages pulp and immature seeds. Stored dates can also be effected.
Parlatoria blanchardii Targ causes white scale. In most of country it is major issue except in USA, as it was eliminated in 1936. White scales cause very serious damage on young palms among two to eight years of age.
They are sucking in nature. Nymphs and adults suck the cell sap (food) from the underside of leaf, midribs and the dates. Under high infestation leaflets become yellowish in appearance and causes the premature death of the branches. Due to its attack, respiration and photosynthesis are highly effected causing early death of the infested leaf. It also causes less production and attacked fruit not marketable.
Phoenicococcus marlatti is completely date palm pest. Due to its attack leaves of date palm become tinny, minute, and greyish scales appears with darker midpoints. This darker spot is oval. All the exposed portions of the date palm can be attacked by this pest. Under its severe attack complete coverage of the leaf surfaces are seen by scales, that ultimately causes intrusion with the metabolic functions (especially photosynthesis) of the plant. Attacked leaves and tissues may be damaged to few millimetres. This scale initiates on roots underground. Detection of red scale is not as easy as compare to other scales as it has natural tendency to hide itself.
Bou Faroua, also called ‘Goubar’ or old-world date mite. It is caused by Oligonychus afrasiaticus McGregor, and O. pratensis Banks. After fruit setting, mite deposits eggs to produce larvae which will feed on the fruits and later cover these with a web. The cycle continues 10-15 days depending on temperature. Affected fruits are of no use.
It is caused by Ectomyelois ceratoniae, and is found in date growing areas. The larva of the Caroub moth causes attack not in plantations, but also in packing houses and stores. The moth lays eggs on dates and hatching after four days. During summer, the larval period is about three weeks while it is eight weeks in cooler months, both are voracious feeder. The pupal period is about five days.
The adult is about five centimetres in length and shiny black in shade having a reddish under-surface covered with short and minute hairs. The adult feeds on leaves, and fruit stalks of the fruit and bunches of date palm. While the grubs flourish on decomposing and decaying vegetable matter like remains and trunks of date palm tree.
First step: Cultural practices
By using advance cultural practices, date palm production can be increased. To apply these advance management practices, someone must be aware of their impact on pest population. There are the following cultural practices that are used for controlling pest population;
- Weed control as they give protection to spider mite.
- Date spider overwinter in bunch, so remove them.
- Tillage has significant role on date palm spider mite population.
- Excess amount of water can also cause increase in insect population.
Second step: Resistant cultivars
Secondly, we should use resistance cultivars such as Khasab, Hamravi, Hasavi, Ashagh, Jozi and Gantar to avoid pest attack.
Third step: Biological control agent
Different bio-control agents are used for this purpose. Some entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN), such as Rhabdits blumi, and the entomopathogenic fungi (EPF), Beauveria bassiana as a biocontrol agent were used for the date palm.
Fourth step: Chemical control
- Rhinoceros beetle makes cuts and holes, these should be treated with potassium cyanide, carbon bisulphate, etc.
- Weevils make young galleries that causes loss of production so we should use aluminium phosphate application.
- By using poisonous fumes, grubs can be killed.
- Phostoxin tablets are used in infested trunks then sealed with gypsum or cement to kill adult weevil.