The Current Status of the Date Palm Sector in the Gaza Strip, Palestine

An Ecological Survey and Assessment

Master's Thesis 2017 143 Pages

Biology - Ecology


Table of contents




List of Table

List of Figure

List of Abbreviations

List of Appendixes

Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Overview
1.2 Problem
1.3 Objectives
1.4 Singnificans

Chapter 2 Literature Review
2.1 History of Date Palm
2.2 Geographic distribution of Date Palm
2.3 Worldwide production of Date Palm
2.4 Botanical description of Date Palm
2.5 Reproductive biology of the Date Palm
2.6 Cultivation of Date Palm
2.7 Harvest and postharvest handling of Date Palm
2.8 Uses of Dates and Date Palm
2.9 Date Palm cultivars grown in the MENA
2.10 Pests and diseases of Date Palm
2.11 Date Palm in Palestine
2.12 Previous studies on Date Palm

Chapter 3 Methodology
3.1 Materials and Methods
3.1.1 Study area
3.1.2 Site and institutional visits
3.1.3 Outbreak and control of Red Palm Weevil
3.1.4 Structured and semi-structured interviews
3.1.5 Questionnaire design and application
3.1.6 Photography
3.1.7 Data analysis

Chapter 4 Results
4.1 Distribution of the Date Palm in the Gaza Strip
4.2 Date Palm cultivars grown in the Gaza Strip
4.3 Production of the Date Palm in the Gaza Strip
4.4 The current status of the RPW in the Gaza Strip
4.4.1 Nature of the RPW
4.4.2 Assessment of the RPW infestation in the Gaza Strip
4.4.3 Control levels of the RPW
4.5 Industries associated with Date Palm
4.6 The questionnaire application
4.6.1 Personal profile of the research sample
4.6.2 Date Palm orchards in the Middle Governorate
4.6.3 Production of Date Palm in the Middle Governorate
4.6.4 General uses and industries based on the Date Palm tree
4.6.5 Threats facing Date Palm trees
4.6.6 The reality of the RPW in Date Palm orchards
4.6.7 Development and management of Date Palm sector

Chapter 5 Discussion
5.1 The Date Palm and its cultivars in the Gaza Strip
5.2 Production of Date Palm in the Gaza Strip
5.3 The current status of RPW in the Gaza Strip
5.4 Public uses and industries associated with the Date Palm tree
5.5 The socioeconomic questionnaire

Chapter 6 Conclusions and Recommendations
6.1 Conclusions
6.2 Recommendations




Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) is considered one of the most important fruit crops in Palestine. Its cultivation has been known for thousands of years. It has a major socio-economic importance due to its commercial, nutritional, environmental, social, health and religious values. It possesses a minimum water demand and tolerates high levels of salinity and harsh weather. Due to its importance as a resistant and strategic crop facing serious threats, the current study comes to investigate the current status of the Date Palm tree and its uses in the Gaza Strip. Field surveys and questionnaire interviews (N=150) were applied to fulfill the purpose of the study.

The current study revealed a total number of 250,000 trees of Date Palm in the whole Gaza Strip. Its cultivation is more concentrated in the Middle Governorate. At least, 19 cultivars have been recorded locally with the Hayani, Barhee and Bentaisha are the most common. The average of balah production in the last years was 12,000 – 15,000 ton per year. The Red Palm Weevil (RPW) is a major serious pest threatening the sustainable production of the Date Palm sector in the Gaza Strip. The introduction of infected offshoots from Egypt and ability of adult weevils to fly long distance seem to be main causes of the local infections discovered in late 2011. Different control techniques have been adopted by the responsible parties to combat the insect. More than 40 industries have been found to be associated with Date Palm trees in the Gaza Strip. Handicraft production and food industries are the main creative uses of the Date Palm by the Palestinian community.

The results of the questionnaire survey in the Middle Governorate pointed out that the Hayani cultivar was grown by all respondents. About 59% of the respondents suffered from the decrease of the number of Date Palm trees in their orchards due to different causes including Israeli procedures and pest attacks. The average production of the Date Palm tree reaches 130 kg per year. As far as wildlife is concerned, 55.3% of the respondents ensured the occurrence of tens of vertebrate faunistic species in their Date Palm orchards. All respondents were aware of the environmental values and the popular uses and industries achieved by Date Palm trees and this is a good sign of consideration. 70.7% of respondents were found to produce household products such as Ajwa, Eid cakes, molasses, etc.

With regard to the threats facing the Date Palm sector in the Gaza Strip, 90.0% confirmed such risks and problems. The Israeli occupation with its military operations and the outbreak of RPW are main crucial threats. About 77% used a variety of chemical pesticides to combat and eliminate Date Palm pests. 84.0% believed that the local projects of Date Palm cultivation have several advantages such as the provision of self-sufficiency and food security, improvement of productivity and national income and reduction of unemployment rate. Finally, the study recommends the improvement of the processes of Date Palm cultivation, production and marketing, and the cooperation of the different parties to ensure good sustainable development of this sector in the Gaza Strip.

Key words: Date Palm, cultivars, Red Palm Weevil, public uses, Gaza Strip.


To my lovely family …

Acknowledgement s

All praises and thanks are for Almighty Allah the most gracious and merciful, for helping me in the completion of this study.

My deep respect and appreciation to my family members; their tender care and patience have not ceased even in my worst moments.

My deepest and profound acknowledgments are to my supervisor Dr. Abdel Fattah N. Abd Rabou, Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, department of biology and biotechnology, Islamic University of Gaza. For his continuous support, generous helps, and fruitful constructive suggestions.

I am especially indebted to the outstanding staff of Department of Biology and Biotechnology at IUG for their useful assistance, valuable advice, and numerous suggestion.

Many special heartfelt thanks and sincere gratitude to the staff of Earth and Human Center for Research and Study (EHCRS), Palestinian Al-Nakheel Association for Progress and Development (PNAPD) and Al-Ahlyah Association for the Development of Date Palm (ASDPD) for their assistance, critical discussions, comments and great help.

Finally, I thank the countless people who contributed to this research and anyone who helped me in any way.

List of Tables

Table (1.1): Governorates of Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Table (2.1): Date Palm statements that mentioned in the Holy Quran.

Table (2.2): Leading date-producing countries in the world in 2011.

Table (2.3): Main Date Palm cultivars grown in the Gaza Strip.

Table (2.4): Major invertebrate pests that infect Date Palm.

Table (4.1): The number of the Date Palm trees in the Gaza Strip.

Table (4.2): The number of tree for each cultivars of Date Palm.

Table (4.3): Quantity of production of Date Palm in the Gaza Strip.

Table (4.4): The number of productive tree and quantity of production of Date Palm cultivars in the Gaza Strip.

Table (4.5): The magnitude of infested Date Palms in the Gaza Strip.

Table (4.6): Trapping of the RPW (2012-2015).

Table (4.7): The number of caught weevil during 2014-2015.

Table (4.8): Wild mammals mentioned by the sample population (N=150) that occur in Palm orchards.

Table (4.9): Birds prevailing in Palm orchards.

Table (4.10): Reptiles mentioned by the sample population (N=150) that occur in Palm orchards..

Table (4.11): Amphibia mentioned by the sample population (N=150) that occur in Palm orchards

Table (4.12): Invertebrate mentioned by the sample population (N=150) that occur in Palm orchards

Table (4.13): Plants mentioned by the sample population (N=150) that occur in Palm orchards

List of Figures

Figure (1.1): The geographic distribution of Date Palm cultivation in Palestine

Figure (1.2): The geographic distribution of cultivation of Date Palm in the Gaza Strip

Figure (2.1): Schematic diagram of the Date Palm

Figure (2.2): The main cultivars of the Date Palm in MENA region

Figure (4.1): Main cultivars of the Date Palm

Figure (4.2): Minor cultivars of the Date Palm

Figure (4.3): Life cycle of the Red Palm Weevil

Figure (4.4): Examination of infested offshoots

Figure (4.5): Symptoms of infection with RPW

Figure (4.6): The magnitude of infested Date Palms in the Gaza Strip (2011-2015)

Figure (4.7): The number of traps and caught weevil

Figure (4.8): The number of weevil that were caught during 2014-2015

Figure (4.9): Removal of Date Palm trees infected with RPW

Figure (4.10): The classical model of RPW traps

Figure (4.11): The components of RPW traps

Figure (4.12): Dursban pesticide which used to spraying palm trees

Figure (4.13): Chemical pesticides used for injection of infected palm trees

Figure (4.14): Injection device used to inject pesticides inside Date Palm trees

Figure (4.15): Fumigation tablets which used to treat infested palm trees with RPW

Figure (4.16): Sex of the surveyed population (N=150)

Figure (4.17): Age of the surveyed population (N=150)

Figure (4.18): Marital status of the surveyed population (N=150)

Figure (4.19): Educational status of the surveyed population (N=150)

Figure (4.20): Occupation of the surveyed population (N=150)

Figure (4.21): Area of the Date Palm orchards

Figure (4.22): The total number of the Date Palm tree per orchard

Figure (4.23): Age of the Date Palm trees

Figure (4.24): Number of Date Palm cultivars grown by the Respondents

Figure (4.25): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the decreasing number of the Date Palm trees

Figure (4.26): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the methods of selling the product

Figure (4.27): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the source of irrigation water

Figure (4.28): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the presence of wild animals prevailing in Date Palm orchards

Figure (4.29): Plants mentioned by the sample population (N=150) that occur in Palm orchards

Figure (4.30): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the presence of plants prevailing in Date Palm orchards

Figure (4.31): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the average production of Date Palm per year

Figure (4.32): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the assessment of Date Palm production

Figure (4.33): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the deficiency in the production of Date Palm

Figure (4.34): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the role of the Israeli occupation in the deterioration of palm sector

Figure (4.35): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the production of industrial household products from the Date Palm tree

Figure (4.36): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the receiving any encouragement or support from the responsible authorities

Figure (4.37): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the risks that faces the Date Palm cultivation

Figure (4.38): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the injury of their palm tree with pests

Figure (4.39): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on application pesticides to combat pests

Figure (4.40): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the source of chemical pesticides

Figure (4.41): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on use of personal protective equipment (PPE) during pesticide application

Figure (4.42): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the infection of their Palm tree with RPW

Figure (4.43): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on considering RPW as a main threat that facing cultivation of Palm

Figure (4.44): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the level of losses caused by injury their Palm trees with RPW

Figure (4.45): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the role of the MOA in solving of the RPW disaster

Figure (4.46): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the attendance of training courses concerning the management and development of the Date Palm

Figure (4.47): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on Bayroha'a El-Nakheel Project for the cultivation of Date Palm

Figure (4.48): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the benefits of projects of the Date Palm cultivation

Figure (4.49): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on the role of MOA in the development of the Date Palm sector

Figure (4.50): Response of the surveyed population (N=150) on challenges facing projects of the Date Palm cultivation

List of Abbreviation

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List of Appendixes

Appendix 1: Questionnaire

Appendix 2: Questionnaire Analysis

Appendix 3: Questionnaire Arbitration

Chapter 1 Introduction

1.1. Overview

Date Palm has long been one of the most important fruit crops in the arid regions of the Arabian, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) (Chao and Krueger, 2007). It is one of the oldest trees from which man has derived benefit, and it has been cultivated since ancient times (El-Juhany, 2010). Today the Date Palm is found in both the old world (Near East and North Africa) and the new world (American continent) where dates are grown commercially in large quantities (Zabar and Borowy, 2012).

The world total number of Date Palms is about 120 million, distributed in 30 countries and producing between 7.51 million tons of fruit per year (FAO, 2013). Asia is the first position with 60 million Date Palms ; while Africa is in the second position with 32.5 million Date Palms . Mexico and the USA have 600,000 palms followed by Europe (Spain) with 320,000 and Australia with 30,000 (Zaid, 2001). Date Palm trees spread throughout the Arab world from Mauritania to Arabian Gulf. Arab countries possess 70% of the 120 million world's Date Palms and are responsible for 67% of the global date production (El-Juhany, 2010).

Date Palm has a major socio-economic importance not only for its fruit but also as an ornamental plant. Because of its high nutritional value, great yields and its long life span, the Date Palm has been mentioned as the “tree of life”. Dates are a main income source and staple food for local populations in many countries in which they are cultivated, and have played significant roles in the economy, society, and environment of those countries (Saafi et al., 2008; Chao and Krueger, 2007). In addition to its commercial and nutritional value, the Date Palm tree has a minimum water demand, tolerates harsh weather, and tolerates high levels of salinity; in fact, it is more salt tolerant than any other fruit crops (FAO, 1982; Alhammadi and kurup, 2012). Date Palms are afflicted with many diseases and pests. The RPW has recently become one of the major Date Palm pests and causes severe losses to farmers (Vidyasagar and Aldosari, 2011).

Cultivated Date Palm have existed in Palestine for 5,000 years. The Mediterranean climate conditions dominant in the area provide optimal conditions for growth and development of certain cultivars of Date Palm (Abu-Qaoud, 2015).

Date Palm cultivation in the Palestinian Territories exists in the regions of Jericho and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, and in the Gaza Strip (Figure 1.1). The total harvested area of dates in both the West Bank and Gaza was 873 hectare (ha) (hectare =10.000 m²) in 2011. In the West Bank, there were 85,000 Date Palms spread over 600 ha, with a production capacity of 2,300 metric ton (MT) in 2012. However, the total date fruit production in Gaza was about 3,000 MT, with Hayani as a major cultivar in Gaza and Medjool in the West Bank (Abu-Qaoud, 2015).

Many local, national or even regional food industries are dependent on dates of the Gaza Strip. In medicine, the plant is known to be used to cure many illnesses such as fevers, cystitis and edema. The ripen fruits enhance the contraction of the uterus during delivery. The long leaves are used as cleaning tools or in roofing recreational places. The trunks are usually used in building purposes or industry (Abd Rabou et al., 2008).

The main problems facing the Date Palm are lack of water, Israeli incursions and bombardments dredging, Israel's control of vaccine trees and pesticides, high production costs, weak marketing services and limited support policies for the cultivation of Date Palm (Wafa, 2014).

The Gaza Strip is a penne region of Palestine on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea that borders Egypt on the southwest for 11 km and West Bank on the east and north along a 51 km border. Gaza has an annual population growth rate of 2.91%, the 13th highest in the world, and is overcrowded. The territory is 41 km long, and from 6 to 12 km wide, with a total area of 365 km². In 2016, the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip numbered around 1.88 million people (PCBS, 2016). The Gaza Strip is a densely populated and impoverished region inhabited primarily by Muslim Palestinian refugees; the majority live in large, overcrowded refugee camps.

The city of Gaza is the principal city and administrative center. Other cities include Beit Lahia in the north and Khan Younis and Rafah in the south (see Table 1.1).

Table (1.1): Governorates of Gaza Strip and West Bank

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(Source: PCBS, 2016).

The study area has a typical semi-arid Mediterranean climate; hot in summer and cold in winter. The average daily mean temperature ranges from 25ºC in summer to 13ºC in winter, with the average daily maximum temperature range from 29ºC to 17ºC and the minimum temperature range from 21ºC to 9ºC, in summer and winter respectively. The daily relative humidity fluctuates between 65% in daytime and 85% at night in summer and between 60% and 80% respectively in winter (UNEP, 2003).

The Gaza Strip has small construction and handicrafts industries, and some farming, including citrus fruits, Date Palm, olives, and livestock. However, Gaza depends on Israel for nearly 90% of its imports (largely food, consumer goods, and construction materials) and exports (mainly citrus fruit and other agricultural products), as well as employment.

Date Palm cultivation in the Palestinian Territories exists in the regions of Jericho and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank (Figure 1.1). In the Gaza Strip, the Date Palm cultivation is mainly concentrated in the Middle and southern Governorate (Figure 1.2). Deir Al-Balah is situated in the Middle Governorate of the Gaza Strip, along the coastline of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Deir Al-Balah is well known for growing Date Palms. An estimated 20,000 of which covered the landscape south and west of the city. However, thousands of date trees have been uprooted or bulldozed by the Israeli Army since the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000. In addition to being a local delicacy, date cultivation constitutes one of the principal sources of income for many of Deir Al-Balah's residents. The particular type of date that is cultivated in the area is known as "Hayani". Other leading agricultural products cultivated in Deir Al-Balah include citrus, almonds and grapes.

Figure (1.1): The geographic distribution of cultivation of the Date Palm in Palestine (Wikipedia, 2007), Adapted by author.

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Figure (1.2): The geographic distribution of Date Palm cultivation in the Gaza Strip (Wikipedia, 2009), Adapted by author.

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Studies concerning the Date Palm in the Gaza Strip seem to be very limited and not neither comprehensive nor specific. Therefore this study aims to investigate on the status of the Date Palm and its uses in the Gaza Strip.

1.2. Problem

1. The local studies of Date Palm sector seem to be very limited.
2.The outbreak of RPW, which has recently become one of the most threats facing the Date Palm sector.
3.The sustainable use of Date Palm trees can contribute to job creation opportunities for poorer families.
4. There is a weak awareness of people toward the various issues and topics related to the Date Palm sector.

1.3. Objectives

1.3.1. Main Objective

The objective of this study is to investigate the current status of the Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) and its uses in the Gaza Strip.

1.3.2. Specific Objectives

1. To display the geographic distribution and main cultivars of Date Palm through field surveys.
2. To investigate the industrial uses of Date Palm.
3. To study the main threats and diseases facing the Date Palm. Particular emphasis will be paid to the Red Palm Weevil and its control techniques.
4. To investigate the public awareness and attitudes toward the Date Palm through questionnaire application.

1.4. Significance

The present study can be considered the first of its kind in the sense that it will provide useful information about the reality of the Date Palm in the Gaza Strip to both responsible authorities and the public as follows:

- The geographic distribution, main cultivars and industrial uses of Date Palm.
- Threats and diseases facing the Date Palm.
- The current status of Red Palm Weevil and its control techniques.
- Also the study will enhance the responsible and public parties toward the cultivation and protection of Date Palm.

Chapter 2 Literature Review

2.1. History of Date Palm

Date Palm is one of the oldest trees from which man has derived benefit and it has been cultivated in North Africa and the Middle East for at least 5000 years (Zohary and Hopf, 2000; Jaradat, 2011; Chao and Krueger, 2007). It was certainly domesticated by 3000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, and may even have been cultivated as early as 5000 B.C. (Mahmoudi et al., 2008). During the past three centuries, dates were also introduced to new production areas in Australia, India/Pakistan, Mexico, southern Africa, South America, and the United States (Chao and Krueger, 2007). Date Palm trees have played significant roles in agriculture and represents a significant part in the reclamation program. Besides the nutritional values and health benefits of the fruits, the Date Palm by-products are daily used by local population in many countries in which they are cultivated (Bekheet, 2013).

Historically the tropical appearance of palm trees was noted in ancient documents, and on stone inscriptions uncovered by archaeological excavations and from multiple references in the Bible Scriptures. Ancient civilizations revered palm trees as symbols of fertility, peace, and victory. Palm tree images were struck and minted on ageless coins of the Greeks and Romans (Malcolm, 2006).

From its center of origin, date cultivation spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, and the Middle East. The spread of date cultivation later accompanied the expansion of Islam and reached southern Spain and Pakistan. The Spanish were the first to introduce Date Palms outside the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, and the Middle East/South Asia, carrying them to America (Chao and Krueger, 2007; Ateeq et al., 2013).

The Date Palm, mentioned more than any other fruit-bearing plant in the Holy Quran, is a symbol often associated with Islam and Muslims. Throughout the month of Ramadan, dates are a common ingredient in the Muslim diet (Nalamkandy, 2011).

Moreover, it is believed to be of benefit to pregnant women. In Surat Maryam, Allah provided Maryam (peace be upon her), the mother of Prophet Eesa (peace be upon him), with dates when she was experiencing discomfort and pain during the final stages of her pregnancy. "And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee" (Surat Maryam:25). The Date Palm tree was mentioned in the Holy Quran twenty times as following in Table 2.1.

Table (2.1): Date Palm statements that mentioned in the Holy Quran

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2.2. Geographic Distribution of Date Palm

Phoenix dactylifera is a widely distributed species occurring in diverse geographic, soil and climatic areas (El-Hadrami et al., 2011). Date Palms grow in hot, arid regions of the world (encompasses the dry desert region of the world between 10˚N and 39˚N in the Northern hemisphere and between 7˚ S to 33 ˚51' S in the Southern hemisphere) and in nearly rainless regions at 9-39˚ North latitude, which are represented by the Sahara and Southern fringe of the Near East (Arabia Peninsula, Southern Iraq and Jordan) (Al-Khalifa et al., 2013).

Date Palms are marketed worldwide as a high-value sweet fruit crop. It is considered as an important subsistence crop in most of the world’s desert areas (Mahmoudi et al., 2008). The Date Palm has traveled remarkably well as civilization moved out of the Middle East and reached places such as Spain and the United States, with the Coachella Valley (California) later becoming the primary commercial region of date production in the USA (Sauer, 1993).

Beyond the arid climates, Date Palm can also be grown in many other countries for food or as an ornamental plant including the continents of Americas, southern Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The majority of Date Palm-growing areas are located in developing or underdeveloped countries where date fruit is considered the primary food crop, thus playing a major role in the nutritional status of these communities (Siddiq and Greiby, 2013).

The common requirement among all Date Palm growing areas is the high temperature (35˚C) necessary for an optimal development of pollen and the low relative humidity for fruit setting and ripening. Such desert-adapted tree require large quantities of water drawn from deep in the soil through a well-established root system or from surface irrigation. Dates are widely grown in the arid regions between 15˚N and 35˚N, from Morocco in the west to India in the east (El-Hadrami and Al-Khayri, 2012; Dayang et al., 2014; Nwanekezi et al., 2015).

2.3. Worldwide Production of Date Palm

The area under Date Palm cultivation almost doubled from 1990 to 2007 (0.63 to 1.23 million hectares), however, there has been some decrease in years 2008 to 2010 (Figure 2.1). The 2011 area figures stood at 1.20 million hectares (FAO, 2012), which represented an increase of 90.5% as compared to 1990’s. It is noted the increases in area under date cultivation were more rapid from 1990 to 2001- about 70% increase to 1.07 million hectares - whereas only 11% increase was observed from 2001 to 2011.

The total world production of dates was 7.51 million metric tons (MMT) in 2011 (FAO, 2013), which represented an almost 120% increase as compared to the 1990 production of 3.43 MMT (Figure 2.1). World date production increased consistently between years 1990 and 2001, for a total of 97% increase to 6.76 MMT. The production from 2001 to 2011 showed mixed trends, with about 11% increase. Overall, it is noteworthy to mention that date cultivation and production have shown positive growth trends (Siddiq and Greiby, 2013).

Table 2.2 represents data on the area under date cultivation and production for leading countries. Egypt was the top-most producer of dates with 1.37 MMT of total world production followed by Saudi Arabia (1.12 MMT), Iran (1.02 MMT), United Arab Emirates (0.90 MMT) and Algeria (0.69 MMT). Combined, these top five countries contributed a 68% share of total world production. Other countries, not shown in Table 2.2, with noticeable production (in thousand metric tons) were: Palestinian occupied territories (37.0), Kuwait (33.6), USA (30.0) and Turkey (28.3).

Table (2.2): Leading date-producing countries in the world in 2011 (with over 50,000 MT)

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(Source: Siddiq & Greiby, 2013), ¹Including all other countries not listed, * Added by the researcher.

As per FAO’s 2011 data, dates are produced in 37 countries (FAO, 2012), however, it is noted that countries listed in Table 2.2 accounted for 95.4% of the total production while the remaining 25 countries contributed less than 5%. A regional distribution of date-producing countries is given below (Sidiqq and Greiby, 2013):

- Asia : Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE, Iraq, Pakistan, Oman, China, Yemen, Kuwait, Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Occupied Palestinian Territory, and Syria.
- Africa : Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Chad, Niger, Somalia, Benin-, Kenya, Cameroon, Namibia, Swaziland, and Djibouti.
- Americas : USA, Mexico, Peru, and Colombia.
- Europe : Albaniaand Spain.

The average economic life of a Date Palm is 40 to 50 years, but some are still productive up to 150 years. There are a few Date Palms that are probably several hundred years old. The average Date Palm produces 40 kg fruit annually, with yields of more than 100 kg possible with intensive management. When farmed with low levels of inputs and management, dates may produce 20 kg fruit or less annually (Hodel and Pittenger, 2003).

2.4. Botanical Description of the Date Palm

Date Palm is a perennial, and monocotyledonous plant belonging to Palmaceae (Barrow, 1998). The name of Date Palm originates from its fruit; "phoenix" from the Greek means purple or red (fruit), and "dactylifera" refers to the finger-like appearance of the fruit bunch. Date Palm is dioecious, meaning it has separate female and male trees (Chao and Krueger, 2007).

Tree : The Date Palm is an impressive tree producing a slender trunk that can grow on an average from 15-20 meters in height. The trunk is covered from ground level to the top with the overlapping persistent woody leaf base, or boot, from old leaves that have died (Figure 2.1) (Robinson and William, 2012).

Leaves: The leaves of the Date Palm are pinnate, resembling a large feather. They can be as long as 6m. They are composed of a long midrib and slender gray-green or bluish-green leaflets 20 to 40 cm long. Many Date Palm leaves have a bluish cast. A healthy Date Palm should have at least 20 to 30 live green leaves, forming a loose crown with the base leaves recurved (Robinson and William, 2012).

Fruit: Only female trees produce fruit, and for the fruit to be fully developed and edible, pollination must take place. Pollinated berries are oblong, dark-orange or brown-black when ripe, and have one woody seed. Unpollinated dates do not develop viable seeds or sugar, and their poor taste is much like chewy cardboard. Trees produce five to ten bunches of fruit each year. A mature tree produces up to 150 pounds annually (El-Hadrami and Al-Khayri, 2012).

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Figure (2.1): Schematic diagram of the Date Palm (Chao and Krueger, 2007).

Flowers: Male and female flowers are borne on different trees and are unlike in appearance. Male flowers are waxy and cream colored, and are borne on a branched spadix 15 to 22.5cm in length. A large inflorescence can have 6,000 to 10,000 flowers. Female flowers are fragrant and whitish colored, and are borne on a spadix 30-75 cm long. Both female and male flowers usually have three sepals and three petals. Date Palms begin to flower between 3 to 5 years. Pollen from the male flower must be collected by hand and transported to the females mechanically (Robinson and William, 2012; El-Hadrami and Al-Khayri, 2012; Zabar and Borowy, 2012).

2.5. Reproductive Biology of the Date Palm

Dates flower when the shade temperature increases to more than 18˚C, and form fruit when it is more than 25˚C (Zaid and de Wet, 2002). The flowers (and later the fruit on female trees) are borne on a flat, tapering peduncle or rachis, commonly known as the "fruit stalk" in the female trees. The fruit normally develops after fertilization from one of the three carpels within each pistillate flower. Date fruit vary in size and shape depending on cultivar, culture, and environment (Chao and Krueger, 2007).

Dates ripen in five stages which can be described as follows:

1. Hababouk stage: earliest stage of fruit development; it begins from fruits set and continues 4–5 weeks, in this time the content of moisture in the fruit is 85 to 90% (Zabar and Borowy, 2012).
2. Kimri stage: it is characterized by rapid increase in fruit size, weight, content of reducing sugars and highest acid activity; the content of moisture in the fruit is 80 to 85%. This stage finish when the fruits start to turn yellow or red, according to cultivar (Biglari, 2009).
3. Khalal stage: fruit starts to turn from green to yellow (or red, according to cultivar). weight gain is slow but sucrose content increases, moisture content goes down to 50−55%, and tannins start to precipitate. In some cultivars this latter process evolves rapidly, what makes them already palatable; ‘Barhee’ and ‘Hayani’ are harvested at this stage (Zabar and Borowy, 2012).
4. Rutab stage: dates become half-ripe, soft, and turn to a light brown color, and the sucrose turns to invert sugars, they contain less tannin than in the Khalal stage and fruit moisture is about 35 to 40% (Chao and Krueger, 2007).
5. Tamar stage: dates become soft and sugar becomes mostly invert; at this stage of development semi-dry and dry dates contain about 50% sucrose and invert sugar and the fruit moisture is 20−25% (Zabar and Borowy, 2012).

Water content is 75% to 80% in young fruit, decreasing to 40% to 60% at the beginning of ripening, and decreasing rapidly later (Chao and Krueger, 2007). The sugar content is about 20% dry matter during early Kimri, increasing steadily to 50% dry matter at the beginning of Khalal, and then accumulating at a faster rate until reaching 72% to 88% of dry matter at maturation (Reuveni, 1986). The average Date Palm produces 40 kg fruit annually, with yields of more than 100 kg possible with intensive management (Chandrasekaran and Bahkali, 2013). When farmed with low levels of inputs and management, dates may produce 20 kg fruit or less annually. Female plants start producing dates at 4 to 6 years of age and reach full production within 15 to 20 years (Chao and Krueger, 2007).

2.6. Cultivation of Date Palm

Date Palm cultivation is one of the most important agricultural activities in some countries, especially Arab countries, and is considered as the first important crop in these countries with perspective to number, widespread, integrated ecological and agricultural system.

Because of the biology of the Date Palm, its cultivation has a number of unusual features that are not common in other perennial crops. There are a number of cultural practices that require access to the crown of the tree, this can be challenging and sometimes dangerous. The crown of the tree needs to be accessed for pollination, bunch tie-down, covering, harvesting, and pruning (Chao and Krueger, 2007).

Date is wind pollinated in nature, but insect pollination is possible. After pollination, bunches are often tied to the leaf stalks to support the weight of the fruit. Fruit thinning is sometimes practiced in date cultivation. Fruit thinning is used to decrease alternate bearing, increase fruit size, improve fruit quality, advance fruit ripening, and facilitate bunch management (Robinson and William, 2012). Fruit thinning can be carried out three ways: removal of entire bunches, reduction in the number of strands per bunch, and reduction in the number of fruit per strand.

Date Palms are propagated by four different methods as follows:

1. Seeds propagation: propagation by seed is not desirable as it usually produces a differentiated population with no two palm seedlings are alike, and so decreasing the chances of producing quality fruit (Zabar and Borowy, 2012; Al-Khalifah et al., 2013).
2. Offshoots propagation: this is the method most used in Date Palm propagation; palms whether male or female can be propagated using the offshoots which develops from axillary buds on the trunk; cutting Date Palm offshoots from the mother palm requires a skilled and trained laborer; the offshoots are then replanted in a new plantation orchard (Chao and Krueger, 2007; Zaid and De wet, 2002; Al-Khalifah et al., 2013).
3. High offshoots propagation: box or plastic bag filled with soil or peat moss material is wrapped and fastened around the base of the high offshoot; the soil should be moist until rooting occurs; rooted high offshoot can be removed and replanted in the nursery or in the orchard (Zabar and Borowy, 2012).
4. Tissue culture propagation: a new technique applied for rapid propagation of Date Palm; three following methods of tissue culture are used: shoot tips and buds culture (organogenesis), embryo culture (embryogenesis), and highly differentiated somatic tissues culture which includes leaf, stem, inflorescence and root sections (Al-Khalifah et al., 2013).

2.7. Harvest and Postharvest Handling of Date

2.7.1. Maturity Indices

Maturity stages of dates include Hababouk (earliest stage of development), kimri, khalal, rutab, and tamar (Zabar and Borowy, 2012). Most dates are harvested at the fully-ripe "Rutab" (light-brown and soft) and "Tamar" (dark brown and soft, semidry, or dry) stages, when they have much greater levels of sugars, lower contents of moisture and tannins, and are softer than the "Khalal" stage dates (Shamim et al., 2013). Increased sweetness with ripening of dates results from the increase in total sugars and in soft cultivars the conversion of sucrose to fructose and glucose (Kader and Hussein, 2009; Shamim et al., 2013).

2.7.2. Quality Indices

Pre-harvest practices that influence date quality at harvest include covering fruit bunches with paper bags to shelter them from dust, pests, and rain; and fruit thinning to reduce compactness of the bunches and increase fruit size and quality. Quality indices include fruit size, shape, color, texture and cleanliness (Kader and Hussein, 2009; Yahia and Kader, 2011).

2.7.3. Harvesting

Time of harvest is based on date fruit’s appearance and texture (related to moisture and sugar content). Proper timing of harvest reduces incidence and severity of cracking or splitting of dates, insect infestation, and attack by microorganisms (Yahia et al., 2013). Dates are harvested in August at the khalal stage or in September to December at the rutab and tamar stages. The whole bunches are harvested and lowered to ground level, then hung on a carrier for transportation to the packinghouse (Zabar and Borowy, 2012; Yahia et al., 2013; Kader and Hussein, 2009).

Green to greenish-yellow and ripe (rutab) fruits are removed from the branches before packing in 5kg-fiberboard boxes for shipment to markets. These dates should be cooled to 0°C and transported under refrigeration (0-2°C and 90-95% relative humidity) to maintain their quality (Kader and Hussein, 2009).

Hydrocooling can be used to cool khalal dates to near 0°C in 10 to 20 minutes, depending on initial temperature, but requires effective disinfection of the water and removal of excess surface moisture from the cooled dates before packing in the shipping containers. Use of a perforated plastic liner within the box can reduce water loss during transportation and marketing (Elansary, 2008).

Date bunches are usually covered with net covers to collect the fallen ripe fruits. As the palm tree grows taller, harvesting the dates becomes more difficult and more costly. Ladders may be mounted on the palm tree to facilitate harvesting (Zabar and Borowy, 2012; Kader and Hussein, 2009).

2.7.4. Insect Disinfestation

Insect infestation and damage caused by insect feeding on the dates is one of the primary causes of postharvest losses in quality and quantity. Dates can be infested with some of the stored-products insects (such as Oryzaephilus surinamensis, Oryzaephilus mercator, Tribolium confusum, Plodia interpunctella, Cryptolestes ferrugineus, and Cadra spp.) and must be fumigated with an approved fumigant for disinfestation followed by packaging in insectproof containers (Kader and Hussein, 2009). Methyl bromide for 12 to 24 hours at temperatures above 16°C is very effective in insect disinfestation. Heated air at 50 to 55°C for 2 to 4 hours is effective in insect disinfestation. Freezing at -18˚C or lower for at least 48 hours (from the time when the fruit temperature reaches -18°C or lower) is enough to kill all life stages of stored products insects (Kader and Hussein, 2009).

2.7.5. Preparation for Market

This stage include:

- Cleaning dates to remove dust, dirt, and other foreign materials using air pressure and water followed by air drying to remove surface moisture.
- Packaging to protect the dates from physical damage Use of insect-proof packaging to prevent reinfestation of the dates with insects during their subsequent storage and handling steps.
- Cooling to below 10°C (preferably to 0°C) before transportation or storage under the same temperatures (0 to 10°C) and 65-75% relative humidity. Forced-air cooling is the most appropriate cooling method for dates (Kaderand Hussein, 2009).

2.7.6. Storage Conditions

Storage and transport at low temperatures is the most important tool for maintaining quality of dates because it minimizes loss of color, flavor, and textural quality; delays development of sugar spotting, incidence of molds and yeasts, and insect infestation; prevents development of syrupiness and souring of excessively moist dates (Mahmoudi et al., 2008).

Dates should not be mixed with onions, garlic, potatoes, apples, or other commodities with strong odors that can be absorbed by the dates. Exposure to ammonia or sulfur dioxide can be detrimental to quality of dates (Kader and Hussein, 2009).

2.8. Uses of Dates and Date Palm

Date Palms produce many products that are useful to humans. The primary product is the date fruit, which can be eaten fresh, dried, or in various processed forms (Chao and Krueger, 2007). Dates can be used in cereal, pudding, bread, pressed cakes, cookies, candy bars, ice cream, and date shakes. Date fruit also can be made into juice, vinegar, wine, beer, sugar, syrup, honey, chutney, pickle, paste, dip, and food flavoring (Chao and Krueger, 2007; El-Hadrami et al., 2011; Al-Khalifah and Shanavaskhan, 2012).

Date fruit are high-energy food sources with 72% to 88% sugar content at maturity. During the Khalal stage, nearly all (80% to 85%) of the sugar is sucrose (Chao and Krueger, 2007). As ripening progresses, the sucrose is hydrolyzed into reduced sugars such as glucose and fructose (Zabar and Borowy, 2012).

Date fruit are good sources of iron and potassium; a fair source of calcium, chlorine, copper, magnesium, and sulfur; and a minor source of phosphorus (El-Hadrami and Al-Khayri, 2012). In addition, dates are a source of 16 amino acids and vitamins A, B1, and B2 (Ismail and Radzi, 2013). The trunk and wood of Date Palms can be used as timber, wood, or fuel. Fiber from the trunk and leaves can be made into bags, baskets, camel saddles, cords, crates, fans, food covers, furniture, mats, paper, ropes, trays, and twine (El-Hadrami and Al-Khayri, 2012). Dried bundles of leaves can be made into shades, roofs, separating walls, and enclosures. Ribs of the leaves can be used to build boats or fishing traps (Chao and Krueger, 2007).

Oil from date seeds can be manufactured into soap (Nehdi et al., 2010). Date fruit also have many medicinal uses (Ismail and Radzi, 2013). They can be used as an astringent for treating intestinal problems; treatment for sore throat and colds; relief of fever (Al-Qarawi et al., 2005), cystitis, edema, liver, and abdominal problems; to counteract hangovers; and many more uses (Al-Gboori and Krepl, 2010).

Groves of Date Palms are important environmental niches for local wildlife and play a central role in the desert ecological system (Jain et al., 2011). Date Palms have been effective for the control of desertification and land reclamation in the Arabian Peninsula, especially in UAE (Gotch et al., 2006).

Production of dates provides jobs for a manpower population estimated at 50 million people, 35% of which are located in the southern Mediterranean countries (El-Hadrami and El-Hadrami, 2009).

2.9. Date Palm Cultivars Grown in the MENA

There is a controversy over the total number of Date Palm cultivars available across the world. Zaid (2002) estimated 3,000 varieties around the world. A large number of date cultivars are grown in the MENA. The most important are: Amhat, Barhee, Bent Aisha, Zaghloul, Hayani, Ameri, Kuboshy and Samany. All major Date Palm growing countries have their own favorite cultivars such as Ajwah in Saudi Arabia, Khalas in UAE, Amir Hajj in Iraq, Saidy and Hayani in Egypt, Deglet Noor and Thoory in Algeria (Sanderson, 2001).

There are many of date cultivars are cultivated in the MENA. The main important cultivars are:

Medjool: The Medjool trunk is medium in size, leaves are short with average curvature and of medium width, the number of spines on each leaf range between 30 and 38. Fruit size varies from small to large; shape is mostly oval (Figure 2.2 a), ranging between orange and yellow, topped with fine reddish-to-brown stripes that develop during the khalal stage (Zabar and Borowy, 2012; Abu-Qaoud, 2015).

Barhee: One of the most famous date cultivars, Barhee is characterized by its sweet taste and high per tree productivity, making its cultivation highly attractive. It is mainly consumed as khalal when still crisp in texture (Figure 2.2 b). The palm has a spreading crown, green leaves and an aesthetically-pleasing shape (Zabar and Borowy, 2012).

Hayani: Hayani is a large palm with large leaves of average curvature, long thorns, medium-sized fruit, with a length of 4–5 cm, and a diameter of 2.5–3 cm. The color is dark red at the completion of growth. Shape is cylindrical with a conical. The fruit turns black at rutab end (Figure 2.2 c) (Abu-Qaoud, 2015).

Zahidi: This date is known for its high invert sugar level and is widely used to make diced dates and date sugar products. It features a crunchy and fibrous flesh (Figure 2.2 d). Distinguished by its large seed in proportion to the fruit itself (Zabar and Borowy, 2012).

Halawi: Semi-dry, extremely sweet, small to medium in size. Thick flesh, caramel taste, and sweet, is somewhat wrinkled in appearance, with a yellow color ripening to a light amber and then to a golden brown (Figure 2.2 e) (Zabar and Borowy, 2012).

Khadrawy: A cultivar favored by many Arabs, it is a soft, very dark date. Originally from Iraq, it has many desirable qualities. It cures well, it ripens to amber, then cured to a reddish brown, with a caramel like texture and a sweet flavor (Figure 2.2 f) (Zabar and Borowy, 2012).

There are many of date cultivars are cultivated in Palestine. They can be identified by their characteristic fruit appearance and texture and fall into three types: soft, semi-dry, and dry. Main cultivars are Medjool, Barhee, Hayani, Ameri, Halawy, Zahidi, and Bentaisha (El Kichaoui et al., 2013; Abu-Qaoud, 2015). According to the estimates Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) for the year 2013 can be classified palm trees in the Gaza Strip, according to Table 2.3.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure (2.2): The main cultivars of the Date Palm in MENA region. (a) Medjool (b) Barhee (c) Hayani (d) Zahidi (e) Halawy (f) Khadrawy (Taken by author).

Table (2.3): Main Date Palm cultivars grown in the Gaza Strip

illustration not visible in this excerpt

(Source: Qofa, 2014),٭Other cultivars are: Zahidi, Halawy and Medjool.

2.10. Pests and Diseases of Date Palm

2.10.1. Major Vertebrate Pests

Fruit Bats: The Egyptian fruit-bat (Rousettus aegyptiaus) is the most common bat and may be found in cites, national park and nature reserves. In Israel this bat is considered as an agricultural pest and large colonies were persecuted and exterminated by authorities in the early 1950s (Moran and keidar, 1993).

Fruit-bats caused great economic losses because they feeds mainly on fruits (87%) while leaves and pollen constitute the remaining 13% (Korine et al., 1999). The local farmer had covered some fruiting trees such as Date Palm with fishing nets or had hung pieces of plastic materials from tree branches. These precautions are useful methods of protecting fruit from attack of both bats and birds (Zohoori et al., 2007).

Rodents: Various types of rodents as Roof Rat (Rattus rattus), Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus), Polynesian Rat (Rattus exulans), House Mouse (Mus musculus) and Spiny Mouse (Acomys cahirinus) are considered a major threat to the Date Palm trees where a significant shortfall in crop quality and quantity also cause severe deterioration in the age of the trees because it facilitates injury Date Palm tree with red palm weevil, which eventually lead to the death of the tree (Brookas and Fiedler, 1999; Sullivan, 2002).

Pest Birds: Birds rarely have the opportunity to damage or consume date fruit. The destruction of the Date Palm tree due to bird activities are small as compared to those caused by rodents. The several species of pest birds that are found in post-harvest situations in South and Southeast Asia are House and Tree sparrows (Passer domesticus, P. montanus), common pigeons (Columba livia), Doves (Streptopelia species), Asiatic House Crows (Corvus splendens), and common mynas (Acridotheres tristis) (Brookas and Fiedler, 1999).

2.10.2. Major Invertebrate Pests

The Date Palm and its fruits are subject to attacks by several pests that are, in most cases, well adapted to the oasis environment. Damage caused by pests is considerable and leads to heavy economic losses. The major invertebrate pests that infect Date Palm are shown in Table 2.4.

Table (2.4): Major invertebrate pests that infect Date Palm

illustration not visible in this excerpt

(Source: Al-Jaghoub et al., 2003).

2.10.3. Date Palm Diseases

Plant diseases are either non-infectious or infectious. Non-infectious diseases are caused by very low temperatures, mineral excesses and deficiencies (Mahmoudi et al., 2008). Infectious diseases are caused by parasitic organisms like fungi, bacteria or virus pathogen. Diseases caused by fungi are easier to control than the bacterial and viral diseases.

Fungal diseases: Rust, black spots , powdery mildew, seedling damping off, Coconut crown rot are some of the fungus diseases (Abdullah et al., 2010).

Bacterial diseases : Canker disease is caused by bacterial infection. The affected parts form corky outgrowth. Stems tend to crack open. Rose plants and citrus plants are quite susceptible to this disease. In lemon plants leaves, stems and even the fruits get the smallpox-like corky outgrowth (Abdullah et al., 2010).

Viral diseases : Most viral diseases are incurable. Seasonal plants and short life plants like Banana and Papaya affected with viral diseases need to be destroyed. Aphids are vectors of many viral diseases. By controlling aphids, viral diseases can be prevented to some extent. Bunchy top of Banana, leaf curl of Tomato and brinjal, Chilli and Papaya, yellow mosaic leaf of Bhendi are some of the virus diseases (Geering and Randles, 2012).

2.10.4. Red Palm Weevil (RPW)

The Red Palm Weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, Olivier) is a serious pest of Date Palm and causing significant ecological and economic damage to farmers (Hoddel et al., 2015). It belongs to Curculionidae family under the order Coleoptera (Vidyasagar and Aldosari, 2011; Hoddel et al., 2015; Hajjar et al., 2015; Al-Dosary et al., 2016). It is a hidden pest and remains inside the palm during the larval development and makes tunnels and pupates . The female weevil after mating deposits eggs into soft tissues of the palm or any fresh wounds caused mechanically.

In its life-cycle a female may lay about 200 to 260 eggs. The eggs hatch in 3 to 5 days into larvae which tunnel into stem and remain hidden inside the trunk. The larvae will grow up to 5 cm and reach pre-pupal stage after several instars in about 60 to 90 days. Pupation occurs in a cocoon spun with chewed fibers and lasts for about 20 days. The adult on emergence may remain inside the stem or may disperse and spread the infestations to other palms (Vidyasagar and Aldosari, 2011; Giblin-Davis et al., 2013; Al-Dosary et al., 2016).

The existing methods for managing and controlling the RPW involve detecting their existence/origination and then applying insecticides if the attack is in early stage otherwise burning the infested plants or infested part of the plants. The remedial actions depend on the stage of attack of RPW (Al-Saqer and Hassan, 2011).

Currently, there is no standardized technique for eliminating RPW without damaging the palm tree. The only possibility to save palm tree with minimum damage is to detect the existence of RPW in early stages (Al-Saqer and Hassan, 2011). The most successful way of controlling and managing RPW is reported from India by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program . It includes monitoring and taking care of palm trees regularly, trapping adult RPW, treating cuts and infections in palm trees, detecting RPW at early stage, treating plant in early stages if infected with RPW, eradicating infested plants, proper cutting of fronds and training and educating farmers and agriculture officers (Al-Saqer and Hassan, 2011; Faleiro et al., 2012).

2.11. Date Palm in Palestine

The Palestinian Territories cover 602,0 km², distributed between the West Bank (566,5 km², 94% of the total area) and Gaza Strip (365 km², 6% of the total area). The total area of cultivated agricultural land currently used by Palestinians covers 15.5% (931.5 km²) of the Palestinian land area, of which 90.6% is in the West Bank and 9.4% is in Gaza (PCBS, 2016).

Date Palm cultivation has been known in Palestine for thousands of years. The Jordan Valley has been cultivated by Palestinian farmers for 5,000 years, especially surrounding the city of Jericho, which is considered the oldest city in the world. Greeks and Romans named the northern part of Palestine the Land of the Date. It is known that the historic city of Jericho was dubbed Palm City; Arab travelers from Jericho stated that the basic problem which faced the Arab cavalry was traversing Date Palm forests, which covered the region (Abu-Qaoud, 2015).

Most of the date cultivation in the West Bank is now concentrated in Jericho and the Jordan River. The extremely high temperatures and low relative humidity that prevail in those areas provide optimal conditions for growth and development of Date Palm. Being a tree of great economic, nutritional and religious value and with its ability to grow in various climatic conditions, including saline soils, Date Palm is of great interest for Palestinian farmers (Kalbouneh, 2011). Nowadays, the cultivation of Date Palm is located in regions of Jericho and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, especially in Deir Al-Balah and Khan Younis. After 1967, considerable areas of the Jordan Valley were cultivated by Israeli farmers and new quality Date Palm cultivars were introduced (Daiq, 2007). The adaptability of the new cultivars and the use of advanced techniques for propagation and cultivation produced fruits of excellent quality and yield to supply both local and global markets (EQA, 2006).

The cultivated area of Date Palms in the West Bank increased from 76 ha in 1993/1994 to 130 ha in 2001/2002, with an increase in production from 880 to 1,700 MT. Production also increased between 2006 and 2012. There are 85,000 Date Palms of good cultivars spread over 600 ha. The production capacity had increased from only 60 MT in 2000 to 2,300 MT in 2012. This number was doubled by 2015 with a projected production level of 5,000 MT (Abu-Qaoud, 2015).

In the Gaza Strip, production of Date Palm reached about 2,000–3,000 MT during the 1970–1980 decade, this amount increased to 5,000–6,000 MT in the period 1995–2002, and declined to 3,000 MT in the 2003–2008 period (Abu-Qaoud, 2015).The total harvested area of dates in both the West Bank and Gaza was 873 ha in 2011 (FAOSTAT, 2011), this area increased to 2700 ha in 2014 representing only 0.2 % of to the total harvested area in the world (Al-Fares, 2014). In comparison with Middle Eastern countries this is a very small contribution. However, there has been a significant increase in the harvested area of dates in the West Bank and Gaza in the last 10 years.

There are many of date cultivars are cultivated in Palestine. These main important cultivars are Medjool, Hayani, and Barhee. The successful cultivation of the Date Palm has a positive impact on Palestinian agriculture. It has great importance in creating job opportunities for families, finding an alternative for the products of Israeli settlements, and providing food security to poor families, especially during political crises, border closures and curfews related to the Israeli occupation.

The local demand for dates in Palestine is relatively stable. During the late twentieth century, the average per-capita consumption was 0.6 kg, which is close to the average domestic consumption globally of 0.9 kg per capita per year, but much lower than that of Saudi Arabia (38 kg) (El-Jafari and Lafi, 2004). The total amount consumed in 1994 was 1,466 MT; this amount increased in 2000 by 28.4%. Moreover, in 2010, this amount increased to 3,019 MT. About 85% of the Palestinian Date Palm production goes to the domestic market and only 15% of production is exported (PCBS, 2011). The date fruit consumption of a Palestinian family is no more than 0.17% of the total food consumption. This low percentage is mainly due to the consumption habit, the high price of dates and the presence of several alternative fruits. The development of the local date market requires a change in consumption habit, developing processes to promote this product, emphasizing health and nutritional benefits and providing adequate marketing infrastructure (Daiq, 2007).

Several constraints face the cultivation and production of Date Palm in Palestine, among them: poor farm management, pest and disease control, harvesting, processing and marketing; shortage of qualified and trained national staff and laborers, and insufficient research and development (Erskine et al., 2011; Abu-Qaoud, 2015).

2.12. Previous Studies on Date Palm

Multi-purpose Date Palm surveys were carried out in different countries worldwide. Special focus was paid on the importance of Date Palm (environmental, medical, socioeconomic, traditional, etc.), uses, cultivation, pests, diseases, genotyping and identification of different cultivars of the Date Palm. Australia was one of these countries where intensive Date Palm surveys were carried out. For example Reilly and Reilly (2014) studied the industrial uses of Date Palm and he mentioned that there are a broad range of industry practices.

In the U.S.A, Siddiq and Greiby (2013) studied the date fruit production, postharvest handling, processing, and nutrition. They mentioned that dates are an important fruit, especially in many African, Middle-Eastern, and Asian countries.

In Pakistan, Abul-Soad (2011) studied the current status and prospective of Date Palm. He studied Date Palms in Balochistan from different aspects: How did the flood affect Date Palms, establishment and management of the Date Palm nursery, tissue culture, and the constraints facing the development of Date Palm in Pakistan.

Work on Date Palm seems to be intensive and extensive in Saudi Arabia. Most studies concentrated on to highlighting the socioeconomic and traditional importance of Date Palm. El-Juhany (2010) studied the degradation of Date Palm trees and date production in Arab Countries: causes and potential rehabilitation. Massoud et al. (2011) studied the geographic information system (GIS) used for assessing the activity of the Red Palm Weevil in the Date Palm. More recently Nasser (2014) studied the use of midribs of Date Palm cultivars grown in Saudi Arabia for energy production and he mentioned that the relatively high heating values found for the Date Palm midribs indicate that they are promising as an energy source. El-Hadrami and Al-Khayri (2012) studied the socioeconomic and traditional importance of Date Palm. Aleid et al. (2015) carried out a comprehensive work aiming at studying the status of the Date Palm in Saudi Arabia. They studied the importance of Date Palms to Saudi Arabia agriculture, production statistics and economics, and the current agricultural problems facing the various cultivars.

In Egypt, Mahmoud and Elbana (2013) conducted a study about the evaluation of olive and palm byproducts on feeding camels, and they mentioned that date stone showed better nutritive values than olive cake. Abdalla and El-Kawy (2010) studied karyotype analysis for Date Palm. Bekheet (2013) described the best methods of micropropagation of Date Palm in Egypt. Ibrahim et al. (2014) studied germination of Date Palm pollen grains (in vitro) and its impact on fruit quality and they mentioned that the germination of pollen grains in vitro is very important and useful to determine the best pollinators for pollination process. Moreover, Ismail (2014) studied the germination of Date Palm pollen grains affected by different sugar types in the medium. More recently, Abed El-Azim et al. (2015) carried out a comprehensive work aiming at studying the hydrocarbons, fatty acids and biological activity of Date Palm pollen growing in Egypt.

In Iraq, there are a lot of research on Date Palm. For example, Al-Rawi and Al-Mohemdy (2001) studied the effect of water quality on the growth and yield of Date Palm. Their results showed that irrigation with saline water caused salt accumulation in soil, which caused a reduction in tree growth and give low yield as well as low quality of fruits. Zabar and Borowy (2012) studied the cultivation of Date Palm in Iraq and they pointed out that the Date Palm cultivation in Iraq has a long history. Hameed (2012) described the inflorescence rot disease of Date Palm caused by Fusarium proliferatum in Southern Iraq. Finally, Khierallah et al. (2014) described the molecular characterization of some Iraq Date Palm cultivars using RAPD and ISSR markers.

In Tunisia, Saafi et al. (2008) studied the common Date Palm cultivars and they mentioned that these cultivars are a potential source of valuable nutrients. They also showed that the pulp of the common varieties could be used in food industries as an important and inexpensive source of sugars which may possess nutritional and technological values. Bouaziz et al. (2008) studied protein and amino acid profiles of Tunisian Date Palm fruit seeds and they mentioned that these seeds are rich in many nutritional compounds, which would justify their use as a possible valuable source for human nutrition. Hamza et al. (2012) conducted an extensive study about genetic variation in Tunisian Date Palm cultivars using ISSR marker and their relation with fruit characteristics. Recently, Ziadi et al., (2014) described a physico-chemical characteristics and total quality of Date Palm varieties grown in the southern Tunisia.

In Sudan, Sulieman et al. (2012) conducted a comparative study on five Sudanese date fruit cultivars and they mentioned that the physical characteristics like fruit weight, length, flesh thickness, seed weight differed significantly between the various cultivars. Ezebilo et al. (2013) studied the diversity of Date Palm cultivars in northern Sudan. They pointed out that the Date Palm farms in Sudan can serve as sites for conserving genetic resources along with fulfilling the primary aim of food production. Khairi et al. (2010) conducted an extensive work on the status of Date Palm cultivation and date production in Sudan. They mentioned that Sudan ranks number 8 in the list of top date producing countries of the world. The prospects for establishment of an advanced date industry in Sudan are promising.

In the UAE, Zaid (2001) study the world date production, and he mentioned several problems and obstacles are hindering the development of the date industry around the world. Al Hammadi (2006) and Alhammadi and Kurup (2012) studied the impact of salinity stress on Date Palm and they mentioned that the salinity can reduce plant growth through osmotic effects, toxicity of ions, nutrient uptake imbalance, or a combination of these factors. Results of these studies indicated that there are differences in salt tolerance between Date Palm cultivars.

In Palestine, many surveys have been carried out to highlight the status and perspective of Date Palm. Abu-Qaoud (1993 and 2015) conducted a survey in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and he revealed that in spite of the feasibility of date-palm production, cultivation in the Palestine is still below expectations. He added that several constraints have been found to impede the Date Palm progress. These included the high investment costs and the underdeveloped marketing structures. Ali-Shtayeh et al. (2000) conducted an ethnobotanical survey in the West Bank of Palestine and they revealed that as many as 63 plant species including Date Palm had medical importance in relieving and treating several diseases including skin, gastric and urinary disorders, respiratory problems, arthritis and cancer and prostate disorders. Said et al. (2002) and Ali-Shtayeh and Jamous (2006) conducted extensive ethnopharmacological surveys in order to evaluate the potential of the Palestinian plants including Date Palm in treating different diseases and illnesses. Moreover, Abu-Rabia (2005) described some floristic species including Date Palm that are commonly used as a food and medicine source in Palestine. The Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ) (2002) described plants occurring in Palestine including the Date Palm with their nutritional, economic, medicinal and fodder values. Ali-Shtayeh and Jamous (2002) mentioned the Date Palm was one of 334 plant species that have been recorded to be threatened in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. To conserve the Palestinian floristic and agricultural plants, Azaizeh et al. (2003) suggested a multilevel program involving the training of local practitioners, an establishment of a medicinal plant botanical garden and a field gene bank.

In the Gaza Strip, work and research on flora including the Date Palm is restricted to few studies. Bolous (1959) studied the flora of the Gaza Strip since decades. He described as many as 251 floristic species including the Date Palm and highlighted some aspects of their uses. Abd Rabou et al. (2008) studied the common flora and its uses in Wadi Gaza. They described 70 plant species and highlighted some aspects of their uses. They revealed that the Date Palm has been used as a food source. It is also used in herbal medicine and as a fodder for grazing animals and timber and fuel production. Abou Auda (2010, 2011 and 2012) studied the plant ecology in the Gaza Strip and denoted to the local potential uses of Date Palm. Madi (2001 and 2005) and Madi et al. (2002) described the various wild plants species prevailing in the coastal sand dunes of Gaza Strip with the Date Palm was included.

Studies specialized in handling the Date Palm are few. Albanna and Eid (2007), MOA (2010) and Qofa (2014) focused on the industries, local uses and the ecological importance of the Date Palm in the Gaza Strip. The MOA (2012) demonstrated the magnitude of the RPW infection to the Date Palm sector in the Gaza Strip and suggested the possible methods of control and prevention. More recently, the Biological Control Unit (BCU) at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) conducted an extensive study about the evaluation, isolation and molecular identification of the Entomopathogenic Fungi (EPF) Metarhizium anisopliae and Beauveria bassiana against the RPW in the Gaza Strip. This study aims to identify indigenous strains potentially suitable for the biological control of the RPW. The results revealed that the B. bassiana and M. anisopliae exhibited a good biological control agent against larvae and adults of the RPW. The pathogenicity of the two most virulent isolates and the toxicity assay on larvae showed a highest mortality percentage nearly to 100% and 90% by 6 days after spraying the larvae with 3.4 × 108 spores/ml of B. bassiana and 3.6 × 108 spores/ml of M. anisopliae respectively. The use of B. bassiana and M. anisopliae can be considered to be useful as a preventive and curative tool for protection of Date Palm tree (El Kichaoui et al., 2017).

Chapter 3 Methodology

3.1. Materials and Methods

3.1.1. Study Area

The total area of the ​​historic Palestine is 27,009 km². The area of the West Bank is 5844 km², and constitute 21.6% of the total area of ​​the land of the historic Palestine. The Gaza Strip, an area of ​​365 km², and constitutes 1.35% of the total area of ​​the historic Palestine. Deir Al-Balah is situated in the Middle Governorate of the Gaza Strip, along the coastline of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Deir Al-Balah is well known for growing Date Palms. The particular type of date that is cultivated in the area is known as "Hayani" (see Figure 1.2).

3.1.2. Site and Institutional Visits

During the course of the current study, visits to Date Palm fields were carried out to the five governorates of the Gaza Strip in order to investigate the current status of the Date Palm. Meetings and discussions with farmers, date orchards owners and normal people are of utmost priority to fill the gaps needed in data collection regarding Date Palms in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, vital visits were carried out to the MOA and other association that interest of the Date Palm sector. Ministry of Agriculture

The MOA was founded in 1994 in the Gaza Strip. It's a government organization dealing with all respect to the agriculture sector, where working hard to keep up with scientific developments in the field of agriculture. This Ministry work to increase agricultural production and private strategic crops with a view to developing the agricultural sector and to improve a minimum of food security through the implementation of various projects, as well as the application of technological methods to increase production and improving the quality that contribute to the sustainability of food security in the Gaza Strip and to improve the livelihoods of farmers.

The vision of the MOA is creating an agricultural system to achieve excellence, perfection, quality and support the economy through investment of natural and human resources and opportunities, and enhance the ability to search, particularly in the areas of manufacturing, development, innovation and development.

The Ministry has set up several projects to support the Date Palm cultivation such as Bahja Gardens and Bayroha׳a project, in addition to giving farmers a training and awareness courses and contribute effectively in the fight against the RPW. Palestinian Al-Nakheel Association for Progress and Development

The Palestinian Al-Nakheel Association for Progress and Development (PNAPD) is non-governmental, non -profitable organization that works in agricultural sector . It has established in Khan Younis in 1998. The association works at many sectors including agricultural, social, relief, environmental, educational and developmental fields. Whereas it works on supporting and developing the farmers capabilities, and preserving the agricultural environment in Gaza governorates through providing the training , consultation , guidance and other related needs of farmers. Besides that, the association provide assistance for the Palestinian farmers in financial and social sides, and working on raising the income for the rural families . It's ideal sign is that no good in society that eats what didn’t plant. The organization also support the development of agricultural national production, and dependence on local production to avoid the siege problems, and the closure of cross boards. The association mission is to be pioneer association in Gaza Strip on developing the agricultural sector to reach the agricultural development in all fields, support and develop the farmers generally by cooperation with governmental and non-governmental organizations that work in the same field.

Association Goals:

- Development and improvement of cultivated land productivity.
- Qualifying the workers in agriculture, and giving them the required skills in and after production.
- Bringing and planting new spices of palms in addition to the current ones.
- The development of vaccination, gathering, manufacturing, storage procedures and utilization of palm waste in handicrafts.
- Developing the agricultural infrastructural services and other fields.
- Take care of social, cultural and health sides of the farmers.
- Strengthening of rural women skills to increase their production and enhance their income.
- Highlight the vital role of rural women, the rights and status of rural women in the social, economic and political views, for comprehensive sustainable development in Palestinian rural areas.
- Strengthening civil society concepts, sustainable rural development, and public services.
- Hosting experts, counselors, sessions and training workshops in all agricultural areas. Al-Ahlyah Association for the Development of Date Palm

Al-Ahlyah Association for the Development of Date Palm (ASDPD) was founded in 2004 in the Deir Al-Balah and consist from a group of engineers, farmers and specialists. This Foundation works through various programs and activities on the development of the Date Palm sector and preparing rehabilitation and training programs for farmers and engineers as well as for the rehabilitation a number of them as a specialists in this area. It contributes effectively to achieve leadership and work with high quality to improve this important sector to contribute to the improvement of the economic, environmental and social situation in the region. Earth and Human Center for Research and Study

Earth and Human Center for Research and Study ( EHCRS) is a center located in Gaza Governorate and consist from multidisciplinary and highly qualified team. Team members are graduated from different countries. The center is interested in Human and Environment. EHCRS seeks to support scientific research and produce high quality studies and research to enhance the progress and advancement efforts in Palestine. EHCRS condenses the efforts to finalize reliable and applicable proposals to serve the Palestinian society.

EHCRS goals:

- To contribute to enrich the research and in particular the environmental and humanitarian studies.
- To participate in improving capacity building skills of potential researchers to help them excel in scientific research and relevant studies.
- To strengthen the role of research, especially in the environmental and humanitarian studies in Palestine.
- To work on underpinning and reinforcement of the importance of research and its applications for decision makers.
- To promote the concepts of partnership, constructive discussion, and consultation to come up with ideal solutions for relevant matters in the fields.
- To look for possible logical and practical solutions for daily life issues in the Palestinian society.

3.1.3. Outbreak and Control of RPW

The PRW is considered one of the most damaging pests that have caused losses in Date Palm cultivation. The study investigated the number of Date Palm trees infected by the insect, nature of the injury, place of infection and ways of its control.

3.1.4. Structured and semi-structured interviews

Conversations, meetings, discussions and interviews were carried out with farmers, workers in addition to the staff of MOA, EHCRS, PNAPD and ASDPD who relate to Date Palms. The researcher developed and used a set of close and open ended questions during the structured and semi-structured interviews conducted. Very important meetings and interviews were fulfilled with Saleh Bekheet (Undersecretary of MOA), Wael Thabet (Director of the Plant Protection and Inspection Department, MOA), Mohammed Abu Auda (Director of Horticulture Department, MOA), Mohammed Hussein (Director of EHCRS), Abdallah Al-Farra (Director of PNAPD) and Islam Shuaib (Director of ASDPD).

3.1.5. Questionnaire Design and Application

A questionnaire (Appendix 1) was designed and applied in Jun and July 2016 in the Deir Al-Balah region, which is situated in the Middle Governorate of the Gaza Strip. This region is chosen because it is the richest in the Gaza Strip in terms of Date Palm cultivation and production. The target group are agricultural farmers. One hundred and fifty farmers were included in this survey. The farmers were individually interviewed and their responses recorded in questionnaires specially designed to conduct this work. The validity of the questionnaire was tested by five specialists in agricultural, plant and environmental sciences. The questionnaire was piloted and further modified to capture the concerns raised by the farmers during the pre-test survey. The questionnaire included yes/no and multiple choice questions.

During the survey, interviewer explained to the farmers any of the questions not clear to them. The questionnaire included relevant information on personal profile of farmers, education, income from Date Palm, household and farmland size, production of Date Palm, general uses and industries based on the Date Palm, pests that face their trees and development and management of Date Palm.

3.1.6. Photography

A professional digital camera was used to take photos regarding the different aspects of field visits. These photos covered the cultivars of Date Palm grown in the Gaza Strip, pests facing Date Palms in addition to the public and industrial uses of the Date Palm tree.

3.1.7. Data Analysis

Data were statistically analyzed using SPSS computer program version 18.0 for windows (Statistical Package for Social Sciences Inc, Chicago, Illinois). Graphs were plotted using Microsoft Excel program 2010.

Chapter 4 Results

4.1. Distribution of the Date Palm in the Gaza Strip

The Date Palm cultivation is historic in Palestine including the Gaza Strip. According to current estimates of MOA, a total number of 250,000 Date Palm trees are found in the Gaza Strip (Table 4.1), of which about two-thirds (67%) are fruit trees. Although it is cultivated in the whole Gaza Strip, it is more concentrated in the middle Governorate (100,000 = 40.0%) as well as in Khan Younis (85,000 = 34.0%). The Gaza Governorate harbors the least Date Palm trees.

Table (4.1): The number of the Date Palm trees in the Gaza Strip

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: (MOA, 2016).

With regard to the age of the Date Palm trees, PNAPD pointed out that 20,000 trees are of less than ten years old including 15,000 palm trees have been planted in the Bayroha 'a El-Nakheel - Kuwait, and the rest 230,000 had ages exceeding 10 years old, though thousands of the trees were stated to exceed 100 year old.

4.2. Date Palm Cultivars Grown in the Gaza Strip

At least, nineteen Date Palm cultivars are recorded in the Gaza Strip. These cultivars can be identified by their fruit appearance and texture. They fall within three types: soft, semi-dry, and dry. The recorded cultivars are Hayani, Barhee, Bentaisha, Ameri, Dairy, Degani, Hilali, Halawy, Hatmi, Jabri, Khanaizi, Khalas, Khasab, Lulu, Muktomi, Medjool, Sukkari, Zahidi and Zaghlool (Figure 4.1, 4.2). The numbers and percentages of these cultivars are illustrated in Table 4.2.



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Islamic University of Gaza – Faculty of Science
current status date palm gaza strip ecological survey asseement




Title: The Current Status of the Date Palm Sector in the Gaza Strip, Palestine