Pakistan is the fifth largest date palm producer in the world. The date palm has the capacity to tolerate environmental stress like water and fertilizer for a longer period because it is a desert native plant. In different soils, it is very successful. Date palm farming can be taken as a commercial business as well as an extra income source with other agricultural crops. It needs less care than other fruit. In this article, I will discuss date palm farming in detail so that it could be easier to understand each aspect of this production technology. There are the following outlines,
- Plantation of suckers
- Land preparation
- The difference in the male and female plant
- Method of pollination
- Fertilizer and irrigation
- Harvesting and ripening of date palm
Plantation of suckers
Date palm is dioicous in nature with male and female plants separately. It is very important for the farmer to understand the propagation method of the date palm. Propagation by means of seed is not recommended due to the late juvenility of the plant and its propagation is done by ground suckers which are true children with proper parent traits. If sucker took away by female plant then child plant will be female in the future and vice versa situation. Propagation by means of the sucker is called asexual propagation where plants carry all parental traits. Propagation by means of seeds is only done by plant breeders, but it is not suitable for commercial purposes. If the farmer is willing to start the date palm for commercial purposes, then it is suggested that always choose the ground sucker from nurseries with 10-12 kg of weight, and its life should be 3-4 years. These plants can be purchased from the nurseries with 1200-1500 rupees per plant.
Date palm varieties in Pakistan
There are a lot of varieties like Hilawi, Zaidi belongs to province Punjab, Dhaki belongs to KPK, and Begum Jangi belongs to province Balochistan.
Land should be prepared as recommended, and plants survive in even harsh conditions. Soil with good drainage capacity is better for date palms. It is suggested that land should be well pulverized with 2-3 plowing and planked and holes are made with 3ft of depth. These holes should be kept exposed in hard sunshine for a week. These holes should be distance 22 ft as the plant to plant distance. The best plantation time of nursery plants in the field is September to October.
The difference in the male and female plant
It is said that one male plant with 50 female plants is enough to cross-pollinate. Based on visual observation like leaves shape and textural look give a fair idea about the plant identity. The most powerful way to identify the plant is by flowering spathes. The male plant looks tougher and hard by texture in leaves whereas female plants are softer and can be observed easily. The main thing is the flower identification, the male plant holds the creamy white colored flower with a beautiful scent and greater in numbers. There are 10,000 to 15,000 flowers in one spathe in the male plant whereas light green flowers with no scent present in a female plant. There are 3000 to 5000 flowers in the female spathe. The female plant is thicker from the base of the stem. It could be tougher for a beginner to identify the plant, but experts give the best description of the plant. One of the major disadvantages of date palm propagation by means of seed is that when the plant reaches the 3rd year of juvenility for its maiden bearing when the farmer is willing to get fruit then it may be a male plant. So, it is suggested that always use the asexual way of propagation for date palm.
Method of pollination
The manual way of pollination is a common method in Pakistan. Some time it is very hard to cross-p ollinate the date palm due to the lack of male plants in the vicinity. So, it is necessary to pollinate manually. For this purpose, white creamy flowers should be cut very carefully from the leaf base and separate each strand of flower in the spathe and place in between the female flower and wrap out so that male and female flower does not separate out. One thing that should be kept under consideration is that checking out the weather before pollination. In case of a high windy or raining situation after pollination, it will be necessary to re-pollinate again because rain washes all pollen in the male flower in the form of powder.
Fertilizer and irrigation
As plants are shifted in the field and the schedule of water and fertilizer should be pre-planned and managed very well. For a new plantation, daily irrigation is necessary for a month, and when the plant completely establishes its roots then increase the irrigation interval by 2-3 times in a month. It is suggested that weekly irrigation should be applied during fruit development and once in the month for the rest of the year. Date palm is a very hardy tree and tolerates the water stress for up to six months, but it is necessary to keep the water requirement according to climatic condition, soil type. It is suggested that make a hole of plant canopy size to irrigate and apply the 1-2 kg of farmyard manure per plant for 1-2 years. For chemicals, fertilizer keeps the 1:1:0.5 kg for NPK per plant but split the nitrogen fertilizer. Half dose of nitrogen fertilizer should apply before flowering and half after flowering and fruit set while other phosphorus and potassium doses should be applied completely before flowering. This food plant is for once a year. When the plant gets bigger and starts it maiden (first fruiting) bearing then double the dose as with age for farmyard manure and NPK fertilizer.
As date palm plants are placed at enough distance which gives the opportunity to the farmer to grow another crop like different short period vegetables like garlic, onion, etc. Sometimes, the farmer also grows fodder as well, but it is suggested that grow only suitable crops that have a short period.
Ripening of fruit
Date palm is harvested at its doka stage when fruit gets it complete maturity and yellow color with crunchy flesh. Dates are harvested as a bunch and then separated individually. It is suggested that carefully pluck the dates so that its cap should not be separated otherwise date will not survive and post-harvest diseases may attack. Make sorting and separate out the diseased and shriveled dates and small green dates as well which did not convert into complete fruit due to lack of complete pollination process. After the separation of healthy dates, it is suggested that keep dates in the sunshine for drying. The drying process can be ranged from 3-7 days. It is suggested that dates should be turned every day to get exposer to sunlight.
- Ground sucker is an asexual way of propagation and recommended most in date palm.
- Most suitable time for plantation is September and October.
- There are many date palm varieties in Pakistan like dhaki, berni, bagum janggi, Zaidi, hillawi etc.
- Date palm is a dioicous plant in which male and female plants are separate and manual pollination is very common in Pakistan.
- While it is suggested that look before pollination for weather so that in case of raining pollen may not get washed out.
- The red palm weevil is a worldwide destructive pest in date palm which destroys a tree so that proper insecticides should be applied twice a month.
- In case of already infestation of red palm, the weevil locates the tunnel inside the trunk and clean out that hole and fill it with mud and aluminum sulfide mixture.
- Make a pre-planned schedule for water and fertilizer.
- As date palm plant to plant distance is wider enough so that intercropping can be done with short period crops.
I hope this article helps you a lot about date palm production technology in Pakistan, comment below and stay tuned!