Introduction to Dates farming in India
Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) belongs to family Arecaceae is the oldest cultivated fruit tree in the world. It is indigenous to countries around the Persian Gulf. The date palms are grown for its sweet fruit containing a high nutritious value and are climacteric in nature. It mostly suits the harsh climatic condition providing excellent yield where most other crops are hard to cultivate. Date palm is known for its valuable dietary food due to the presence of anti-inflammatory nutrients, crude fibres and cholesterol-free nutrients in it. Apart from this, date palm is quite a multipurpose tree providing food, shelter and timber products. The date fruit owned its value of being a good source of food by providing, fibre, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins besides having anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Worldwide the major area of cultivation of date palm takes place in the countries of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Algeria, Sudan, Oman, Libya, and Tunisia. The total area under date palm cultivation in India is about 20,000ha and India is importing soft and dry date every year. The extremely dry hot areas comprising Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner, Churu, Hanumangarh, Sriganganagr and Jodhpur districts in Rajasthan, Bhatinda, Fazlika, Abohar in Punjab, Sirsa, Hisar, Mahendergarh, Bhiwani in Haryana and Kach region in Gujarat and some parts of Tamil Nadu state are the major areas in cultivating date palm in India.
Date Palm Tree:
The date palm is a dioecious tree which means the male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers are born on two different palm trees and it grows to a length of about 65 to 70 feet (20 to 21 m) in height which is cylindrical and grows straight up to to the top with the same girth. The fruit size varies from 2.80 cm to 5.92 cm in length and between 0.59 cm to 1.37 cm in diameter in different cultivars. The date palm trees are well adapted to desert environment conditions.
Date palm varieties list:
Kimia Dates: The black coloured fruit with a creamy consistency, and luscious.
Sagai Dates: Medium brown to very light brown coloured fruit which has wrinkles over it without any flake.
Halawi Dates: Medium-sized fruits with caramel-honey flavour and the variety is tolerant to humidity.
Zahdi Dates: oldest variety with medium size, cylindrical in shape, and light-brown in colour.
Khastawi Dates: trees are large and vigorous with small fruits and are resistant to humidity.
Barhee Dates: a high yield variety with long fruit stalks. The date palm tree yields about 6 to 20 bunch of dates per tree and each bunch can weigh between 8 to 15 kg.
Soil and climate for dates farming in India
Requires sandy coarse soil type with PH 7.5-8.2. it suits mostly the arid and semi-arid climatic conditions. Date palm flowers best with day temperature of 15-20°C. Flowering occurs when the temperature goes above 20°C. About 3000° heat summation unit is required. 0°C Low temp or frost does not affect the tree and required high temperature 40-45°C during crop period for fruit growth, development, and maturity. Affected by low rainfall.
Dates farming – Planting and spacing
Land prepared for cultivation by digging pits of 3×3 ft to which neem cake, FYM and soil mixture is added to the pits along with biofertilizers. The saplings are then planted with spacing 25 x 25 ft.
During the early stage of growth, manuring to be done thrice a year and at a later stage twice a year of manuring is enough.
Irrigation in Date palm farm
Irrigation to the tree is given twice a week under a drip irrigation system by making a ring basin around each tree. The ring basins can be covered by placing coconut leaves to reduce water loss.
Other intercultural operations in Dates farming:
Pollination: since date palm is dioecious, which requires an external agent for pollination. The pollens are collected from the male trees and mixed with wheat flour at the rate of 1g of pollen in 10 g of flour and then the mixture is sprayed over the female flowers. Generally, the recommended ratio of female: male tree ratio is 100: 2.
Bending of inflorescence: for making the harvesting process easier.
Thinning: The berries count per inflorescence is to be maintained around 20 numbers. To get good quality fruit of bigger size and weight.
Bunch cover: the berries are covered with the help of a polythene bag to protect them from birds and other pests.
Pest and Diseases of Date Palm
Major pests are weevils, scales, and mites which can be controlled by keeping pheromone traps and application of neem seed extract.
Diseases such as root rot and black scorch can be controlled by the application of biocontrol agents.
Harvesting of Dates in Dates farming
The date palm starts providing fruits within three to four years after planting some may even take six years to provide yield depending upon the cultivars. The tree continues to yield for about 60-70 years.
Yield in Date Palm farming: Each tree yields nearly 100-125 kg of berries per year. The harvesting time depends on the market demand either as unripe fruit, semi-ripe or fully ripped fruit are harvested.
Maturity index of Date palm: The colour of the date berries changes from greenish to yellowish.
Cost of Date Palm cultivation
|1||Sampling(62 Nos) Rs.3500 each||217000|
Income returns in Date Palm farming (approx.)
|Duration||Yield per tree||Price (Rs.)|
|3rd year||25 kgs||11250|
|5th year||45 kgs||20250|
|7th year||75 kgs||33750|
|9th year||95 kgs||40500|
Conclusion: Date palm is a good crop in areas of harsh climatic condition which provides farmers an affordable price under proper maintenance. However, the date palm farmer can earn good profits in dates farming if they take proper care and management.