Do you know why date palm farming is now very lucrative? It is because many people have now found it as another alternative to sugar after honey. Adults are adviced to consume little amount of sugar. In other to take precaution some people chose the path of the adage that says ‘prevention is better than cure’ by avoiding sugar completely.
Dates are called debino in Hausa (northern part of Nigeria). Of course this is the region that grows date palm because their weather favours its growth. Some people are of the opinion that date is from Palm family as such should do well in the South. Well they may be from the same family but their growth condition differs. Date palm grown in the south are vegetative meaning thwy can produce fruits because of their climate. Maybe debino farming will be successful under green house in the South. It is left for us to find out.
It is a crop that is grown in hot regions. Date is grown mainly for their nutritious value and as a great source of sugar. contains; calcium, iron, nicotine acid and potassium. High in fibre, low in calories and high in vitamin B. Many people, including me consume date as snack, Iran are the major producers and exporters of dates globally.
In Africa, dates are mostly grown in North Africa. There are more than 1000 varieties of dates. It requires high temperature and low humidity as such should be planted in an open space for full exposure to sun. Date is a slow growers so you need patience the commonest variety is the Medjool dates.
WHERE TO BUY DATES IN LARGE QUANTITY IN NIGERIA
From the history of dates in Nigeria, they are grown successful with abundant harvest in the North East and North West . You can purchase date in large quantities in Jigawa, Adamawa, Gombe, Sokoto, Kebbi etc. The yield is reduced in North central.. Date palm tree has two cycles in Nigeria, and only one cycle in other parts of the world including North Africa and Middle region where it originates from. Nigeria Institute For Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) have produce seedlings of different varieties from parent suckers.
HOW TO START DATE PALM FARMING
Palm crops generally are not easy to grow, and so dates are difficult to grow, they require much work. Dates palm need the male and female to produce. Growing them from seed will be trial and error because you cannot determine the sex until fruiting stage. So purchase seedlings that are cut from existing date palm. Dates can grow up to 50 feet tall and 30 feet across. Chose dwarf hybrid date palm variety it makes harvesting easy.
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With regular rainfall you don’t need watering except there is draught. Dates are pollinated by wind so if you are planting few trees you may as well be wasting your time. Because they will not pollinate except you pollinate them manually. Male date tree produce sheaths of pollen very early in the year around Febuary, collect the powdery substance and dust them on the female flowers during bloom.
Prepare the soil during dry season a month or two before the rain starts. Plough the ground thoroughly 2-3 times to ensure the soil is well loosened and levelled. Dig holes of 1mx1mx1m and pour farmyard manure into the pit. It can grow in a wide variety of soil but sandy loam soil rich in organic matter is ideal for date palm farming. If grown in saline and alkaline soil will produce less yield. The optimum growing PH is between 8-10.
Propagation can be done through seed planting, tissue cultivation and through off-shoots that is from the suckers that emerged from the base of the mother tree. The suckers sucker should be removed from the parent plant 4-5 years after planting. Although at this stage 9-20 suckers that may weigh between 9-15kg can be gotten which is a slow method of multiplication.
Cut the parent plant back 2/3 of its length then reduce the inner leaves to half. Tie the pruned stalks together for protection and for it to develop the already rooted system of the young bud. Just like oil palm farming 8mx8mx8m spacing is ideal for date farming. You can plant them in square form.
A hectare can accommodate 150 dates trees, the male tree can be 5 and female 145. This is because dates are dioecious in nature you need the male to fertilise the female for fruiting. Seed propagation is not the best method because it produces less fruit. Apart from low yield the quality of the fruits are poor. Most times half of the fruits produce turns out to be non bearing male plants. Dates are planted between July-September. It takes between 14-21 days for date seeds to grow under normal condition but were there is challenge can 10 days.
Dates can be inter cropped with; paw paw, groundnut beans or any other cowpea.
Organic or inorganic fertiliser can be used in date palm farming. This should be done; before planting, when they are growing during fruiting and ripening. Nitrogen should be more at the starting and less during fruiting also potassium should be high at this stage”
IRRIGATION/MULCHING IN DATE PALM FARMING
Although date palm tree can withstand harsh conditions it is ideal to irrigate them especially during dry season. Dates need adequate water for good growth but care must be taken in other not to over irrigate them as not to cause water log. Don’t irrigate during raining season and make sure you drain the soil after every heavy rain because it can damage the plant if nothing is done.
During flowering and fruiting dates don’t appreciate water so irrigation should be reduced at this time. It may interest you to know that too much watering will not allow fruiting and the palm may die.
The soil should be mulched in other to preserve moisture and to reduce weed germination.
Dates grow long sharp thorns or spines at their base you can cut them off it will not affect the dates trees. Thinning is very important in dates farming, it should be done manually. Because it will:
- Make the plant to produce plenty flower the following year
- Improve the quality of date palm fruits
- Prevents delay in fruit ripening.
Thin the fruits once they start setting by picking out smaller fruits before they ripe. If not harvested fruits will be very tiny dates
The number of leaves a date fruit has depends on the cultivar. Some trees can have 7-10 leaves. Prune old leaves in the month of June to give way for new leaf to grow.
DATE PALM FARMING WEEDING
Weeding should be carried out when necessary. Three times a year will be ideal to tackle weeds.
PESTS AND DISEASE CONTROL IN DATE PALM FARMING
- Parlatoria date scale is caused by insects
- Coconut rhinoceros beetle caused by insects cut off any decaying part and burn.
- Diplodia is caused by fungus, use Bordeaux mixture.
Birds especially squirrels and mice eat dates fruits a lot when ripe. Use mash bags around dates to avoid attack by animals.
Harvest is from 6-7 for traditional dates plant and 4-5 years for hybrid seedlings. Fruit is less at the starting but increases as the age. Dates fruit don’t ripen at once, harvesting can be done many times during the season. The fruits are ripe when soft and brownish in colour. But they can be picked when hard because date continue ripening even after harvest. A tree can produce 50,000 nuts.
They are harvested twice in Nigeria between January/Febuary.
Fresh dates fruits can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks or you freeze them up to 4 months. Dry and store the fruits to retain and increase sweetness. Dates take too long to dry, you can dry them in the oven or dehydrator. It takes about 29 hours to dry, dates will become soft and leathery when ready.
Debino can be preserve in a cold dry place under room temperature in an airtight container for 6 months. If well preserved can last more than two years in storage.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF DATES
- Good for weight gain
- Increases sperm
- Strengthens the bones
- Good for fertility, increases sexual libido
- Reduces the risk of abdominal cancer
- Nervous system health
- Energy booster
Date sales itself, because many people now use it especially those into commercial fruit drink and local drinks such as kunun Aya drink, soybeans etc. The yield is such that you will be smiling to the bank every year. As it is now dates keep increasing in price. Depending on your location you can get 7 nuts for #100 or so. You can supply the fresh ones to super stores such as Shoprite, Grand Square etc. And sale them higher because many people are looking for fresh dates that are not wrinkle.
It is very necessary to start date palm farming because the few commercial date farmers we have now is not enough to take care of our growing population. Date palm is a cash crop that will keep producing many years up to 60 years.
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