|Phoenix dactylifera subsp. var.||Date, Date palm, Date tree|
The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is a palm in the genus Phoenix, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Although its place of origin is unknown because of long cultivation, it probably originated from lands around the Persian Gulf. It is a medium-sized plant, 15–25 m tall, growing singly or forming a clump with several stems from a single root system. The leaves are 3–5 m long, with spines on the petiole, and pinnate, with about 150 leaflets; the leaflets are 30 cm long and 2 cm wide. The full span of the crown ranges from 6 to 10 m.
|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Date. A palm, Phoenix dactylifera, Linn., native to North Africa or Arabia and extensively planted in countries inhabited by Arabs, and having arid or desert conditions. Figs. 1223-1226. It is also grown to some extent in southern Asia and southern Europe and in other tropical and subtropical countries. It is of very ancient cultivation, having been grown along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers for four thousand years or more. It has long been planted casually in parts of Mexico and the southwestern parts of the United States, and is now becoming a fruit of commercial promise in some of these regions.
The date palm reaches a height of 100 feet, making a nearly straight, shaggy trunk, and it continues to bear for one or two centuries. It is dioecious, the males usually equaling the females in a batch of seedlings, this constituting one of the great disadvantages of raising seedling dates. The Arabs practise artificial pollination by tying male flowers on the pistillate clusters. The flowers are produced early in the spring, from six to twenty clusters appearing on a mature tree. The female or fertile clusters of good size will produce as much as twenty to forty pounds of dates. As with apples and other fruits, there are many varieties differing in quality; seedlings do not reproduce the variety, so that propagation of named varieties must be accomplished by other means.
The date is the fruit, being essentially a drupe, measuring 1 to 3 inches long. The date of commerce is the cured and dried natural fruit. The sweet nutritious pulp of the fruit constitutes one of the most important foods of the Arabs. The leaves and other parts of the plant afford materials for dwellings and many domestic uses. The wood or trunk is used for timber. The importation of dates into the United States amounts to about $500,000 worth annually. No doubt the consumption will be greatly increased when a home-grown and clean-packed product is obtainable.
Aside from the direct uses of the plants and the fruits, the date palm is valuable as a cover for other crops in the hot and dry regions. Beneath the palms, other fruits, vegetables and many crops may be grown with more safety than in the open blazing sun. It is probable, therefore, that the date palm will become a feature of the farming in all the regions of the Southwest in which it thrives.
The general situation.
In Florida, California, and restricted areas of a few other states, the date has been grown for decorative purposes for more than a century. At the missions founded by the Spaniards at St. Augustine, and other places in Florida, and that long line of missions extending from far into Mexico northward and westward through southern New Mexico, Arizona and California, it is likely the date was planted wherever the climatic conditions were favorable to its growth. Within the borders of the United States the greater number of these early plantings were in Florida or along the coast of southern California, regions where the sum total of summer heat is not sufficient to develop the date fruit perfectly. The date, as a fruit-producer, being indigenous to a desert environment, does not take kindly to humid regions, even where it is not sufficiently cold to prohibit the growth of the tree. It is not only a question of maturing the tree or even of producing the fruit but also of bringing the fruit to perfect ripeness. For this reason the greater number of the early plantings in this country matured little fruit, while that produced was of poor quality, although in many instances the trees grew luxuriantly and to large size. In the more arid parts of Lower California and Sonora, where there is sufficient water for irrigation, the early plantings have been continued down to the present time, and dates of fair quality have been grown for many years. Moreover, each year the area devoted to dates is increasing, and with the recent studies of the life-history of the plant by Swingle and others the adaptation of regions is now better understood and undoubtedly the future plantings will be made with much better assurance of success. Modern date culture in this country may be said to have begun with the planting of imported Egyptian and Algerian palms and seedlings principally in Salt River Valley, Arizona, in the years 1890-1900. Tourney's studies of these early plantings resulted in Bulletin No. 29 of the Arizona Station. Studies of conditions in the Saharan region and the importation of varieties by the United States Department of Agriculture, were made in 1899 and 1900. These results were set forth in Bulletin No. 53 of the Bureau of Plant Industry, by Swingle. Stations for testing the introductions were provided by Arizona in 1899, by California in 1904, and by Texas in 1907. Subsequent large importations were made by Fairchild and Kearney, as described in Bulletins Nos. 54 and 92 of the Bureau of Plant Industry of the national Department of Agriculture.
Dates unquestionably can be grown profitably in many of the hot dry irrigated valleys in the southwestern parts of the United States. The Salton Basin in southern California promises particularly well for date-culture because of the high temperature, and here even the famous Deglet Noor date of the Sahara will ripen fully, even in cool seasons. Considerable attention is also being given to dates in the newly developing Imperial Valley. In northern California, the date can undoubtedly be grown for home use in many regions, even north of San Francisco; it finds good conditions for commercial culture in parts of Arizona; and there are probably adaptable regions in Texas. The date can endure more alkali than any other profitable fruit crop, and this fact will extend the range of its usefulness. When once well established, brief temperatures as low as 10° F. do not do serious harm to date palms.
While date trees have been grown in the United States and Mexico for certainly more than a century, and while much fruit has been produced incidentally here and there, largely as a by-product, nevertheless date-growing on a commercial scale is yet a new and experimental industry in this country. Although it promises well, the business requires experience and skill, and it must be established only in those regions which are particularly adapted to it, especially those that have an extremely hot summer climate. As yet, the returns from date-culture are almost impossible of determination. As nearly always happens with new and promising industries, doubtful claims have been made for profits of date-culture by interested parties. It must be borne in mind that practically all the varieties now recommended for commercial cultivation in this country are of Old World origin. Although many seedlings are being raised, it is yet too early to designate any one of them as superior for general orchard planting. It is advisable that in the regions in California and Arizona, and elsewhere, that are adapted to dates, numbers of seedlings should be raised from the best varieties, care being taken that they have been pollinated from the best males; in this way the chance will be increased of originating varieties that are especially adapted to the region. The business must be developed by residents and those who study the conditions closely from year to year.
According to Swingle, at present less than a dozen varieties among the 200 or more on trial at the government date-gardens in the Southwest can be said to be well enough known to warrant planting on a commercial scale. The Deglet Noor and the Tazizaoot can be recommended for orchard planting in the Coachella and Imperial Valleys of California; the Halawy, the Khadrawy, the Maktoom, and the Hayany are promising for cooler regions, such as the Salt River Valley of Arizona, and may be planted in the California date regions on a scale not too large for the early markets; the Rhars is excellent for home use as a fresh date, but is of little commercial value; the Thoory is a dry date of great promise, but it is as yet doubtful whether dry dates can be marketed advantageously on a large scale without an expensive publicity campaign. To plant other varieties that are new or inadequately tested, involves a considerable element of risk. The fact that they appear satisfactory in the Old World deserts is no guarantee that they will grow, bear, and ripen fruit properly in the Southwest or that their fruit will prove acceptable to American buyers. Any planting of a variety on a large scale before it has been thoroughly tested must be considered as a speculation. It would be much safer for those who expect to grow dates on a commercial scale to limit themselves at first to those varieties that have been tested by public and private agencies, and to learn all phases of the culture, curing, packing, and marketing of the fruit of one or more of the standard varieties. This is the best possible preparation for the efficient culture of new sorts when they have been sufficiently tested in the government or other adequately supervised testing-gardens to render it desirable to test them on a commercial scale in private culture. The government, through the Department of Agriculture, has taken special pains to safeguard the young industry.
It is always preferable to propagate dates from suckers unless one desires to originate new varieties, not only on account of the knowledge of the sex (it being hardly necessary to state that the sex of a sucker is the same as that of the plant from which it is taken), but on account of the ability to make a selection in the variety and quality of the fruit.
Dates are easily grown from seed if the ovules have been properly pollinated. Seeds may be planted in any month immediately after they are taken from the fruit, particularly in the mild climates of the Salton Basin, Lower Colorado Valley, and Salt River Valley. Unless the conditions are good, however, it is better to stratify them in a box between layers of moist sand and allow them to remain for three to six weeks in order that the seed-coats may be softened. It is important, however, that in the stratifying-box the seeds do not sprout, as they are easily damaged after sprouting takes place. The seed may be sown in nursery rows and the young seedlings transplanted after one, two or three years; or if the field is well prepared, and has good irrigation, the seed may be planted directly in the fields where the palms are permanently to remain. If they are placed directly in the field, it is well to plant them in rows 25 to 30 feet apart and to allow the young plants to stand 3 to 5 or 6 feet apart in the row. When the dates come into bearing, the undersirable ones and the males may be removed and the probability is that a sufficient number of good varieties will remain to make the row properly continuous; and the rows will be far enough apart for the regular or permanent plantation.
Suckers or offshoots are taken from the base of the young palm (Figs. 1223, 1224). One to several suckers may be removed each year, averaging two to four for the productive period, and when they are three to six years old and have begun to develop roots of their own. All species belonging to the genus Phoenix are difficult to transplant with uniform success. Frequently as high as 50 per cent of transplanted dates die even when watered daily and given the best of care. In planting suckers with the best of attention, a percentage die; while without care not one in a hundred will grow. It is due not so much to the lack of experience in removing the suckers as to lack of proper care after removal, that so large a percentage fail.
Suckers may be removed at any time during the spring or early summer, or even in the winter, if proper care be given them after removal. If they are to be planted in the open ground it is advisable to remove them in spring or early summer, April probably being the best month. In winter, when the plants are at a standstill, the suckers may be removed with comparatively small loss, if the "bulbs" or bottoms be not less than 4 inches in diameter. It is-necessary, when suckers are removed at this season, to set them in rather email pots, so that the earth, which should be given a daily soaking, may have a chance to get warm quickly. The pots should be kept in a dry greenhouse, or, better yet, imbedded in a hotbed of manure, covered with the customary frame and glass. In all cases the leaves should be cut back to 6 to 12 inches in length, and sometimes they are removed. Transplant only when the ground is warm.
If proper attention can be given it is best to plant large suckers where they are to remain, as a second chance for loss occurs when they are transplanted from a nursery to the position that they arc finally to occupy. An iron bar weighing thirty to forty pounds, and flattened to a 4-6-inch cutting end, may be used to cleave the offshoots from the tree. The leaf-stalks should be cut away, exposing the bulb of the sucker, care being taken not to injure the bulb in removing. One should cut in rather deeply at either side, not being afraid of injuring the old plant, cutting out a V-shaped portion extending from the base of the bulb downward for a few inches. Wounds may be painted with coal tar to prevent bleeding and evaporation. It is important, when planting the suckers in the field, to set them so high that the crown-bud will not be covered with water during irrigation, in order to avoid decay and death.
A successful method of rooting the suckers is to bank up earth about the base of the parent tree and above the base of the suckers, and keep moist by watering daily to induce formation of roots. Suckers may be partially severed from the old stock before the banking is done, or after the roots have started. When the roots are well grown, the suckers may be transplanted with little loss.
The suckers will grow perfectly well, however, if no roots are left attached. The offshoots may be cut away from the parent plant, with all the leaves removed, and leaving only the Dud in the center or at the apex surrounded by the leafstalks. Such offshoots will stand very much exposure and may be shipped long distances without being packed in moist material, care being taken that the boxes are so filled with packing that they will not be jammed or bruised in transportation. After they are planted, they should be kept constantly moist about the bottom and should not be allowed to suffer any check. The Arabs apply water every day for thirty or forty days and then continue to irrigate each week until the following winter, care being taken not to water too much. If these precautions are taken and if the offshoots are planted in warm ground, there need be very little loss. They should never be set in the open ground when the soil is cold, as in fall or winter. If the offshoots are to be taken off at that time, they must be grown in pots or in some similar way, as described above.
The growing of dates.
The date, palm grows in nearly all kinds of soil, if only the climatic conditions are right. If it be sufficiently irrigated and have the requisite amount of heat, the soil seems to be a secondary consideration. In general it may be said, however, that sandy-loam soils of the desert, with a small percentage of clay and slightly charged with salts, are preferable to rich and heavy soils, suitable for growing ordinary crops. The question of water is of great importance in the culture of dates, as it is necessary that the roots of the date palm be in moist earth throughout the year. In general, the amount of water required for successful culture is considerable. If sufficient water cannot be supplied by natural methods, one must resort to irrigation. Water should be supplied at frequent intervals throughout the year. However, the most should be supplied in the spring before blooming, and in the fall prior to the ripening of the fruit. The amount of water for each palm depends so much upon soil and local conditions that an estimate would be worthless. Care should be taken not to irrigate to excess at the time of blooming and immediately after, as it will militate against the successful setting of the fruit. The date seems to enjoy not only a high atmospheric temperature, but a high temperature of the water supplied in irrigation as well. In irrigating small crops by flooding, it is necessary in midsummer to irrigate late in the afternoon or at night in order to prevent scalding. Care should be taken, in the hotter part of the year, that the date palm is not subjected to hot water about the roots, rising above the soil for a considerable length of time, and later left until the soil becomes exceedingly dry and baked by the sun. Such extremes sometimes seriously injure or destroy the tree.
The date palm comes into bearing early, examples being known in California of fruits being produced two years after the seeds were planted. It usually requires six to eight years, however, for seedlings to bear any considerable quantity of dates. Under the best date- culture, seedlings are not used but the plants are propagated by means of suckers, as already explained; these suckers soon become established and will bear abundantly in five or six years afterwards. After ten or fifteen years, the palm may be considered to be in full bearing and should continue to produce indefinitely. It should yield 100 to 200 pounds of fruit annually, although there are cases of very much higher yields than this. To conserve the strength of the parent plant, the suckers should not be allowed to grow around the base in large numbers. Usually not more than three or four of these suckers or offshoots are allowed to remain at any one time. After the palm is in full bearing and has a trunk a few feet high, the offshoots cease to be produced. It is recommended, however, that one offshoot be left attached to the mother plant in order to replace the tree in case of an accident. If the date palm is allowed to grow as it will, it becomes a clump of many trunks, surrounded by a jungle of offshoots.
It is advised that the date palm be planted at distances of not less than 26 to 33 feet. Other crops can be grown between the trees till they come into bearing heavily, or even continuously.
Under proper cultivation, the date palm should produce from ten to fourteen leaves each year. A well-developed tree will have at one time from thirty to sixty leaves, the old ones dying away below while new ones are forming at the top. The different varieties show great variation in rapidity of growth, form and length of leaves, size of stem, and general aspect of plant. The stem of the date palm is very rigid. When the stem reaches a height of 5 or more feet it is frequently necessary to tie the growing bunches of dates securely to the lower leaf-stalks, that they be not broken and injured by the wind before maturity.
While it is possible to produce dates by depending on wind-pollination from male to female trees, this process is much too uncertain for commercial culture and requires a very large number of male trees. In commercial plantations, one male tree to 100 females is sufficient; but this requires that the pollinating shall be performed by hand. Small separate twigs or branch- lets of the male inflorescence, from 4 to 6 inches long and bearing thirty to fifty flowers, are tied on the female cluster. Inasmuch as the .flowers in the female cluster mature at different times, it is necessary to repeat the operation of pollination. In old plantings, persons must climb the trees in order to perform this operation, but for the first ten or fifteen years of bearing the clusters are so near the ground that little if any climbing is required. Each female flower produces three ovaries. After pollination, two of these ovaries fail and one matures into the date. In case there is no pollination, all three of the ovaries will develop but will be seedless and the fruit will be inferior.
As with other fruits, it is often necessary to thin the dates on trees, particularly on young trees that tend to overbear. Even on old trees, best results are to be secured if only eight or ten bunches are left.
Usually the dates in an entire bunch do not ripen at the same time. Picking off the dates as they ripen is a practicable operation when labor is cheap. In general, however, it probably will be found the better plan to cut the entire bunch at once. This may require some special operation in the handling and curing. Some varieties require practically no special handling or curing and are ready to ship as soon as they have ripened naturally. Usually, however, the bunch must be ripened much as a bunch of bananas is cured, by being cut off and hung in a moist and warm place. It has been found that in Arizona the best varieties of dates may not ripen naturally on the tree. Freeman's experiments at the Arizona Experiment Station show that conditions favorable for the rapid ripening of the Deglet Noor may be produced artificially in an oven. The degree of moisture and temperature may be carefully regulated. In this ripening process, there is not only a change in the sugar-content but the tissues of the date are softened, the tanin is precipitated and the astringency of the fruit is thereby relieved. Vinson found that dates may be ripened artificially by means of chemical reagents. Artificial ripening by means of heat, moisture, and chemical stimulation makes possible the production of commercial crops at altitudes too high and cool to mature many medium and late varieties. Losses by rain, insects, and birds are minimized, and greater cleanliness secured. Last year over half the crop from miscellaneous varieties at the Tempe Date Orchard (Arizona) would have been lost but for artificial methods of ripening. These methods are cheap and practicable. In connection with ripening operations, the fruit can be pasteurized at a temperature of 65° to 70° C (149°-158°F.) and then packed under cheese - cloth to secure it from contamination by flies and other insects. Recent experiments by Drummond show that fumigation with carbon bisulfide kills insect eggs, and is preferable to pasteurization with varieties inclined to be sticky. In 1910, Swingle discovered the process now in use for ripening Deglet Noor dates by keeping them in moist atmosphere in closed packing- boxes which are kept warm at night and heated to 80° or 90° F. during the day. Deglet Noor dates ripen perfectly by this process and remain light-colored while those ripened by the rapid process are darkened. Freeman s rapid process will ripen greener dates, however.
For further discussion, see Phoenix; also the bulletins of the United States Department of Agriculture, and of the experiment stations of Arizona and California. J. W. Toumey. L. H. B.
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Pests and diseases
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A large number of date cultivars are grown. The most important are:
- Aabel — common in Libya.
- Ajwah — from the town of Medina in Saudi Arabia, it is the subject of a famous Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad.
- Al-Barakah — from Saudi Arabia.
- Amir Hajj or 'Amer Hajj' — from Iraq, these are soft with a thin skin and thick flesh, sometimes called "the visitor's date" because it is a delicacy served to guests.
- 'Abid Rahim (Arabic: عبد رحيم), from Sudan.
- Barakawi (Arabic: بركاوي), from Sudan.
- Barhee or (barhi) (from Arabic barh, a hot wind) — these are nearly cylindrical, light amber to dark brown when ripe; soft, with thick flesh and rich flavour. One of the few varieties that are good in the khalal stage when they are yellow (like a fresh grape as opposed to dry, like a raisin).
- Bireir (Arabic: برير) — from Sudan.
- Datça Date - Turkey, this spice is the northernmost population of dates, in Mediterranean.
- Deglet Noor (Arabic: دڤلة النور 'date of light') — so named because the centre appears light or golden when held up to the sun. This is a leading date in Libya, Algeria, the USA, and Tunisia, and in the latter country it is grown in inland oases and is the chief export cultivar. It is semi-dry and not very sweet.
- Derrie or 'Dayri' (the 'Monastery' date) — from southern Iraq — these are long, slender, nearly black, and soft.
- Empress — developed by the DaVall Family in Indio California USA from a seedling of 'Thoory'. It is large, and is softer and sweeter than 'Thoory'. It generally has a light tan top half and brown bottom half.
- Ftimi or 'Alligue' — these are grown in inland oases of Tunisia.
- Holwah (Halawi) (Arabic: 'sweet') — these are soft, and extremely sweet, small to medium in size.
- Haleema — in Hoon, Libya (Haleema is a woman's name).
- Hayany — from Egypt (Hayani) (Hayany is a man's name) — these dates are dark-red to nearly black and soft.
- Iteema — common in Algeria.
- Khajur — common in India / Pakistan.
- Kenta — common in Tunisia.
- Khadrawy (Arabic: 'green') — a cultivar favoured by many Arabs, it is a soft, very dark date.
- Khalasah (Arabic: 'quintessence') — one of the most famous palm cultivars in Saudi Arabia, famous for its sweetness level that is not high nor low, thus, suits most people. Its fruit is called 'Khlas'. Its famous place is 'Huffuf' (Al-Ahsa) and 'Qatif' in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia (Al-Sharqheyah).
- Khastawi (Khusatawi, Kustawy) — this is the leading soft date in Iraq; it is syrupy and small in size, prized for dessert.
- Maktoom (Arabic: 'hidden') — this is a large, red-brown, thick-skinned, soft, medium-sweet date.
- Manakbir — a large fruit that ripens early.
- Medjool or (Mujhoolah) (Arabic: 'unknown') — from Morocco, also grown in the USA, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel; a large, sweet and succulent date.
- Migraf (Mejraf) — very popular in Southern Yemen, these are large, golden-amber dates.
- Mgmaget Ayuob — from Hoon, Libya.
- Mishriq (Arabic: 'East' — مشرق) — from Sudan and Saudi Arabia.
- Mozafati — from Iran, where it is mainly grown in Kerman province, and often named "Bam (Mozafati) dates", after a city in that province. It is a dark, soft and sweet date of medium size. It is exceptionally well-suited for fresh consumption, because of its long shelf life. At a temperature of −5 degrees Celsius (23 °F) it can be kept for up to 2 years. It accounts for 10% of total Iranian date crop. (100,000 tonsTemplate:Vague, of which 30% is exported).
- Nabtat-seyf — in Saudi Arabia.
- Rotab — from Iran, they are dark and soft.
- Sag‘ai — from Saudi Arabia.
- Saidy (Saidi) — soft, very sweet, these are popular in Libya.
- Sayer (Sayir) (Arabic: 'common') — these dates are dark orange-brown, of medium size, soft and syrupy.
- Sekkeri — (lit. sugary) (Arabic: سكري) Dark brown skin; distinctly sweet and soft flesh, from Saudi Arabia, it is the most expensive kind.
- Sellaj — (Arabic: سلّج)in Saudi Arabia.
- Tagyat — common in Libya.
- Tamej — in Libya.
- Thoory (Thuri) — popular in Algeria, this dry date is brown-red when cured with a bluish bloom and very wrinkled skin. Its flesh is sometimes hard and brittle but the flavour described as sweet and nutty.
- Umeljwary — in Libya.
- Umelkhashab — Brilliant red skin; bittersweet, hard white flesh (Saudi Arabia).
- Zahidi (Arabic: '[Of the] ascetic') — these medium size, cylindrical, light golden-brown semi-dry dates are very sugary, and sold as soft, medium-hard and hard.
- Zaghloul (Template:Lang-ar) -Dark red skin, long, and very crunchy when served fresh (as they invariably are), their sugar content is so high that it desiccates the mouth. The variety is essentially exclusive to Egypt, where it is subject to an element of nationalist sentiment (Saad Zaghloul being a major Egyptian national hero).
The Gaza Strip, especially Dier al Balah, "Village of Dates", is known for its exceptionally sweet red dates. There are more than 100 known cultivars in Iraq.Template:Clarifyme It should be noted, however, that a cultivar can have several names depending on the locality.
- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963
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- Date QR Code (Size 50, 100, 200, 500)
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