On World Food Day, a team of Plant Scientists from King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) announced it had begun a major project to improve global date palm production and protection. The project is the first time that the date palm genome has been studied so comprehensively.
Dr. Ikram Blilou, Professor of Plant Science at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) and her research team in Saudi Arabia have collected samples from date palms by the Quba mosque in Madinah, some of the most ancient date palms in the world.
"The date palm is one of the few fruit trees that, remarkably, can grow in the desert, a habitat with an arid climate where extreme temperature changes and drought conditions limit plant growth. Within KAUST's Center for Desert Agriculture Research we are studying date palms using advanced genome sequencing techniques and have begun to develop new breeding strategies to help palms grow faster and healthier as well as making them more resistant to pathogens and pests like the red palm weevil," says Dr. Blilou.
Earlier this year, Dr. Ikram published in the scientific journal Plant Cell, findings that provide insights into how desert plants are able to thrive in hostile habitats.