Introduction of Dates farming: – Who said the dates are grown in gulf countries? Now you can grow dates palm in your back yard. In India, slowly commercial cultivation of dates is increasing day by day. Dates are highly nutritious fruits and they are excellent source of sugar, calcium and nicotinic acid, iron & potassium. Iran is the number one producer and exporter of dates in the world.
Health Benefits of Dates: – Below are the some of the health benefits of dates.
• Dates help in relieving constipation & regulating bowel movements.
• Dates help in promoting heart health & reducing heart disease risk.
• Dates help in controlling diarrhea.
• Dates help in preventing Iron deficiency anemia.
• Dates help in reducing blood pressure.
• Dates help in boosting sexual health.
• Dates help in promoting respiratory & digestive health.
• Dates help in pregnancy & deliveries.
• Dates help in arthritis patients.
• Dates help in reducing colitis risk.
• Dates help in preventing colon cancer.
• Dates help in weight gain.
Dates Local Names in India: – Khajoor (Hindi), khejoor (Bengali), Khajura (Oriya), Khajur (Marathi), Khajur (Guharati), Khajoora Pandu (Telugu) Pericham pazham (Tamil), Etha pazham (Malayalam), Khajoora (Kannada), Khejur (Assamese).
Major Dates production states in India: – Rajasthan, Gujarat and South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Commercial Varieties of Dates in India: – There are more than 1000 date varieties exist. Here are some of the commercially cultivated date varieties. Barhee, Medjool, Shamran (Sayer), Khadarawy, Halawy, Zahidi, Khalas, Wild date palm.
Climate Requirement for Dates farming: – Dates require low relative humidity & plenty of sunshine for their best growth. It requires long days with plenty of sunshine, night temperatures and winter days without frost. It does not prefer rain especially at the time of flowering and fruit setting.
Soil Requirement for Dates farming: – Dates require well drained deep sandy loam soils with ph of 8.0 to 10.0. The soil should have ability to hold the moisture. The dates also can be grown in saline & alkaline soils with lower yield. The soil should be free from calcium carbonate and should not have any hard pan at least up to 2.5 meter for better root development.
Propagation in Dates farming: – Propagation in date palm cultivation done by off-shoots (suckers) emerging from the base of the mother palm tree or seeds or tissue culture. Farmers don’t prefer seed propagation as it results in poor quality of fruits and more than half of those fruits may be no-bearing males.
The suckers should be separated from the mother palm trees 4 to 5 years after planting. In this process, 9 to 20 off-shoots (suckers) of 9 to 15 kg can be obtained during its 4th and 10th year of life. This is a very slow process of multiplication, thus this method is bottleneck to overcome in the date palm farming. Although, tissue culture technique is standardized method, its commercial use is still constrained.
Before removing the suckers (off-shoots), the outer leaves of mother palm should be cut back to 2/3rd of their lengths & the inner leaves should be cut to half, the pruned old leaves stalks should be tied together for protecting and developing the well rooted system of the young growing bud.
Land Preparation, spacing and planting in Dates Farming: – As the date palm trees are perennial in nature and having long life about 50 years, it is essential to have adequate spacing between the plants. The square planting system is adopted in the dates palm cultivation and 8 meters distance between the rows is maintained in this system for proper inter cultural operations and growth. The plant density in the Dates farming is about 160 plants per hectare land and 10% of those must be off-shoots to provide adequate pollen-grains, since dates are dioeciously fruits.
The selected field should be ploughed 2 to 3 times and leveled to bring the soil to the fine tilth stage. Dig the pits size of 1 meter X 1 meter X 1 meter during the summer to prepare for rainy season planting. These pits should be kept open for about 2 weeks and then filled with well rotten farmyard manure and the soil. July to September time best time for planting.
Intercropping in Dates Farming: – Date palm requires high water although it can withstand prolonged dry and drought. It prefers constant moisture in the soil but sensitive to water logging. There is no need of watering in rainy season and in case of heavy rains it floods, water needs to be drained out as it may damage the plantation. In high water table areas, 5 to 6 irrigations may be required per year where as it requires frequent irrigations after irrigations may be required per year where as it requires frequent irrigations after planting. Water requirement depends on the soil moisture holding capacity and climatic conditions. Mulching is the best method of retaining the soil moisture and preventing the weed growth. Once the off-shoots are emerged, the frequency of irrigation can be reduced.
Weed Control in Dates farming: – Weeds can be controlled by mulching as well as weedicides.
Pollination, fruit thinning and Regulating Leaf Number in Dates farming: – Dates palm trees are highly cross pollinated because of it’s dioeciously property. Generally, hand pollination or mechanical pollination is carried in commercial farming. It requires 2 to 3 male trees for 100 female date palm trees. About 3 strands of male flowers should be inserted between strands of female flowers of date palm trees. Pollination in date palms is very important because, the quality of dates especially size and time of fruit ripening are highly influenced by pollen.
In dates farming, fruit thinning is essential and should be carried out manually of by chemical spray. Fruit thinning is required for adequate flowering in the following year and to improve the date fruit quality. This also help in preventing delayed ripening of the fruits.
Enough number of green leaves in date palms is essential for proper growth and fruit yield. Less number of leaves will result in poor quality of fruits. The number of leaves depends on the variety cultivated, for example, in Brahe variety the optimum leaf number is 7 to 10 where as in 8 to 9 in Halfway. The old leaves should be pruned in the month of June to allow new leaf growth.
Manures and Fertilizers in Dates Farming: – Organic and in organic fertilizers are very important in date palms farming for production of quality dates. This also increases the yield of dates. Supplementing the soil with well decomposed farm yard manure of 12 to 35 tonnes/ha is recommended and this can be applied in the beginning of winter. Chemical fertilizers of N: P: K should be applied in the ratio of 30: 20: 50 kg/ha and this can be applied in the month of March and April. In India, the recommended dose of ‘N’ is 1.40 kg/tree. When it comes to yearly requirement, an adult tree requires 600 grams of ‘N’, 100 grams of ‘P’ & 75 grams of ‘K’ every year.
Pests and Diseases in Dates farming: – The following are the diseases and pests found date palm plantation.
• Bayoud disease: This is mainly caused by fungus in the soil. To control this, the soil should be treated with chloropicrin or methyl bromide.
• Diplodia disease: This is also caused by fungus in date plantation. To control this, protect wounds & cuts from pruning with Bordeaux mixture.
• Graphiola leaf spot: This is also caused by fungus in high humid conditions. This can be controlled and prevented from pruning he effected leaves and destroying them. Application of fungicide spray Bordeaux can be used.
• Khamedj disease: Fungus caused in hot, humid climatic conditions in neglected plantations. Infected spates should be treated with diseased Bordeaux mixture.
• Parlatoria date scale: this caused by insects. Mineral based oils are effective against nymphs. Regular pruning of palms can keep the sales under control.
• Coconut rhinoceros beetle: This is also caused by insects and this can be controlled by destroying any decaying logs in palm plantation by chopping and burning.
Harvesting in Dates farming: – Dates will be ready for harvesting after 6 to 7 years of planting and yield would be less in the initial stages. Depending on the variety, dates are eaten at different stages, so the harvesting depends on the local demand. In India, Date fruits are harvested at ‘doka’ stage to avoid any damage caused by humidity and rains. In the state of Gujarat, Ethephon spray (1000ppm) at color break stage is recommended to advance the fruit maturity.
Yield of Dates: The date fruit yield depends on the variety grown and farm practices and other factors including soil and climate. However, 10 years old date palm tree yields about 50 to 60 kg per year. This yield increases with age and up 80 kg of fruits per tree can be expected at the age 15 years.