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India: Govt to promote date palm cultivation

After olive plantation, the horticulture department is going in a big way to promote date palm cultivation in the arid desert regions of north-western Rajasthan. "Initially, the cultivation of date palms will be taken up in Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Barmer and later in other districts", said agriculture minister Prabhulal Saini.

"The horticulture department will establish modern high-tech date palm farms, producing high quality plants for both national and international market. The date plantation developed under the project will work as a centre of know-how and good agriculture practice of palm production and dissemination centre of pre and post harvest technology", he said. "It has been decided to import secondary hardened tissue culture raised plants suitable for ready transplanting in the field. Accordingly, international bid was invited for import of different varieties of date palm and their management on government farm for a minimum of 100 hectares on a pro rata basis and initially upto 130 hec-tares for a period of four years", he said.

The state has the biggest arid zone in the country, constituting nearly 61 % of the total land. The moderate winter temperature and a long, hot and dry summer are favourable for its cultivation, he said. However, the state could not succeed in the cultivation of date palm earlier due to non-availability of quality planting materials. A date palm plant can produce only 10 to 20 off shoots of 8 to 15 kg size during its fourth and tenth year of life and none thereafter. Absence of fast multiplication technique is a major bottle neck in the extension of area under its plantation.

Deputy director, horticulture, Sitaram Jat said: "Date Palm has been proved to be a valuable plant in combating desertification. It creates a unique microclimate, which allows other plant species to survive in the mottled sunshine that penetrates through the canopy of the date palms. This shade house effect reduces evapotranspiration rates and increases humidity, which facilitates a secondary food production system by introducing other plant species."

The global production of dates fruit is about 5.4 mn metric tonnes per year. The five largest producers are Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, & Iraq. Approximately, 93% of dates harvested in the country are consumed within.

Date palm is a traditional crop and in recent decades, has gained acceptance in 40 countries including US, South Africa, and more recently, Australia. Major importers are India, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Malaysia.

Date fruits have iron, potassium and calcium content. They are highly delicious and are a rich source of sugar (70-75%). One kg of fresh fruits of date palm gives about 3,000 calories of energy.

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Publication date: 6/13/2008


 


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