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Date Palm Cultivation: Basic Guide for Beginners

Shipra Singh
Shipra Singh
Date Palm Tree With Its Fruits

Date Palm Scientific Name  

Phoenix dactylifera   

Producing Countries 

The biggest producer of date palm in the world is Iraq. Date palm cultivation is widely done in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Pakistan, Spain, and USA.  

Date palm agriculture is practised in India along the coastal belt from Mandvi to Anjar in Gujarat's Kutch and Saurashtra districts. Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala are among the states that grow it.

Kutch is India's major grower of date palm.

One of the successful farmers of Bhuj in Gujarat uses Israeli Technology for date palm cultivation.  

The date palm's origin is unknown. It has been grown since 4000 BC, according to legend. People in the Indus Valley civilization and the Middle East ate it as a staple diet.

Date Palm Varieties  

Over 3000 varieties of date palm exist worldwide. However, not all are cultivated commercially.  

  • Soft-fleshed: HalawyMedjoot, Shamran (sayer), Hayani, Khadrawy, and Saidy. 

  • Dry and semi-dry fleshed: ZahidiThoory, Noor, Deglet, and Dayari. 

  • Non-astringent: HalawyBarhee, Chip Chap (Kip Kap), Bureim, Shaker, and Shahaani

  • Chaharamaking: KhadrawyZahidi, and Medjoot 

  • Pind Khajoormaking: Zahidi. 

Wild date palms can also be found across the world.  

Climate Required 

The climate is particularly important to the date palm production. It necessitates a long summer, a warm winter, no rain during flowering and fruiting, low relative humidity, and plenty of sunlight.

Wild dates can reach a height of 1500 metres.

The date palm is one of the most important crops in the Middle Eastern deserts.

Here is a quote from the book “Fruit Crops for Wasteland” by Dr. S. P. Singh: “the date palm likes to have its head in fire and its feet in water.”  

The phrase implies that the date palm crop enjoys both heat (hot, dry climate) and water (proper irrigation).

Dusty breezes are good for the tree, but they reduce the quality of the fruit.

The ideal temperature for flowering and fruiting is above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature of above 80oF for less than a month is required for proper ripening.

Soil Required 

Date palm cultivation can be done in a wide range of soils.  

Best soil: sandy loam and well-drained soils with no hardpan below within 60-90cm range and with a pH of 8-10.  

Although date palm farming can be done in saline and alkaline soil, the growth and yield gets affected.   

Mode of Propagation 

  • Off-shoots or suckers: This is the most common mechanism of propagation. The offshoots should be picked from the mother tree's base. After 4-5 years of planting, you must separate the sucker. During the 4th and 10th years of the tree, you can get 9-20 suckers weighing 9-15 kg. In its entire productive life, a single date tree can produce 10-25 offshoots. This is a slow multiplication process that produces a large yield.

    Seed: Farmers avoid using this method of propagation since the fruits are of poor quality.

    More than half of the fruits create non-bearing males that can't be used for future multiplication.

  • Tissue culture: This technique induces rapid multiplication of date palm. 

Sowing Process 

Soil preparation:  

  • Plough soil 2-3 times. Level it and bring it to a fine tilth stage. 

  • Dig pits of 1m x 1m x 1m during summer as preparation for monsoon. 

  • Let the pits stay open for 15 days.

  • Use well-rotten FYM (Farm Yard Manure) + soil to fill the pits. 

  • Do the plantation. 

Best time for plantation: February and March. This lets the plant take complete advantage of the hot summer months.  

However, in Kutch areas, where the biggest production is done in India, the plantation is done in the beginning of monsoon.  

Irrigation Requirement  

  • Immediate irrigation is essential after plantation. Drought and over-irrigation do not affect the date palm production. Both, though, are hazardous.

  • The date palm prefers a steady level of moisture in the soil. Waterlogged soil, on the other hand, should be avoided.

  • During the monsoon, irrigation is not necessary.

  • Water should be drained if there is a flood.

  • 5-6 irrigations per year are sufficient in places with a high water table.

  • It's important to irrigate the soil right after planting. You can reduce the frequency of irrigation after the off-shoots appear.

  • Mulching with dried leaves and grasses is an excellent idea. This aids in soil moisture retention, especially in arid and semi-arid climates.

Intercropping 

Date palm plants live for a very long time. Intercropping pulses such as gram, peas, lentils, and vegetables is simple. Pomegranate and papaya can also be grown. Make sure you have additional irrigation and nutrients set up while intercropping.

Pruning 

  • Pruning is necessary for date palm cultivation to maintain a sufficient number of green leaves for excellent growth and harvest. At the bearing stage, scientists predict the tree should have 75-100 leaves.

  • This means that for the first 4-5 years, no pruning is required because only up to 20 leaves are produced annually.

  • To improve fruit quality, it's critical to maintain an appropriate leaf bunch ratio.

  • When the ration is high, the humidity is high, which can lead to the development of Blacknose disease in dates.

Pollination 

Date palm trees are dioecious and heavily cross-pollinated in nature. It takes only 5-10% of male plants to pollinate 100 female plants. In commercial date palm production, pollination is done by hand or machine. A total of three male flower strands are placed into each female flower strand.

Pollination is a crucial agriculture method in date palm cropping since it affects the size and quality of dates palm fruits as well as when they ripen.

Fertilizers  

  • For rainfed areas, 30-40 kg FYM and 200 g each of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (NPK) per tree is required. 

  • For irrigated areas, 50-60 kg FYM and 200 g of NPK per tree is required. 

  • Apply whole of FYM, half of N, and full of P and K in September-October. 

  • Apply the remaining half of N in January-February. 

  • Green manuring can be done with rotting leguminous cover crops. 

Pest & Diseases  

Pests:  

  • Black headed Caterpillar 

  • Red Weevil/Indian Palm Weevil

  • Rhinoceros Beetle/Black Palm Beetle

  • Scale Insects

  • Birds

    Diseases are False Smut/Graphiola Leaf Spot and other similar fungal diseases. Use of fungicide and Bordeaux mixture is helpful.  

    Harvesting  

    Harvesting is done on the basis of growth and ripening stages. This is because dates are consumed at different stages of maturity.  

You can harvest the fruit in the following stages of ripening: 

  • When the fruit is still growing and green. Gandora or Kimri are two names for it.

  • When the fruit has reached full size and has changed colour from green to red or yellow. Dora or Khalal are two names for it.

  • When the fruit's tip begins to soften. It's called Dang or Rutab.

  • When the fruit has reached full maturity and is sufficiently dry to be stored without rotting. Pind or Tamar is the name given to it.

Yield 

Date palm tree usually begins to bear fruit in the 4th year. It starts giving good yield (with proper care and cultivation practices) from the 5th year. 

Average yield:  

  • A 10-year-old date palm tree can yield 50-60 kg fruits per year.  

  • A 15-year-old date palm tree can yield 80-200 kg fruits per year. 

Yield depends on variety, soil, area, and cultivation practices.  

Storage  

Dates are normally picked when they reach the Khalal stage, which has a high water content of up to 70% to 80%. At room temperature, they have a poor keeping quality. The best way to keep its quality is to keep it cold. However, in order to keep their freshness and crunchiness, they should be sold as quickly as feasible.

Alternatively, they must be cured and processed in order to create value-added goods. Dates that have been dried have a longer shelf life, up to a year.

(Also read- Why Are Dates so popular?)

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