Traditional Pollination of Date Palm
farming methods perfected through modern applications have
sustained and improved the yield of date palms in the Sultanate,
especially in places like the wilayat of Ibri in Dhahirah
region, which boasts the best variety of khalas dates.
long history of date palm cultivation in Oman is closely
linked to the indigenous farming methods rooted in traditional
farmer smells a date palm flower to ascertain its quality
Pictures by Abdullah Ibrahim al Shuhi
first stage of fruit on a female date palm, which was
pollinated through the manual process
is a complicated process in date cultivation. If one were
to depend on wind-aided natural pollination, 50 per cent of
the trees should be male, which makes date farming uneconomical.
therefore, necessitated the adoption of a manual pollination
process to ensure a rich crop. The natural, wind-aided pollination
of date palms is a big constraint due to the requirement of
equal proportion of male and female trees in a field.
farmer appears content with the male date palm flower selected
process meant that a field could never be fully productive as
half of the space would be taken up by male plants.
palm is unisexual, being either male or female. Male and female
flowers grow on buds called Spath, which opens naturally when
is easy to identify the male and female flowers. Under the method
of manual pollination, pollen from a male flower is smeared over
female flowers. This works very well and also guarantees higher
Male date palm flowers and saplings at Ibri market
most important benefit of the manual pollination process
is that male flowers from a single tree can be used to pollinate
40 to 50 female date palms.
A farmer shows a khalas date palm sapling
allows farms to be rid of male plants and nurture female plants
in their place. To facilitate pollination, only two or three male
date palms are required in a field.
soon as the buds carrying the pollen split naturally, the buds
are fully cut to dry the pollen in the sun, protected from winds.
While drying the pollen, buds should not be placed one over another
as wet pollen would easily rot.
flowers should be frequently turned till both sides are evenly
dried. Proper drying takes about two to three days after which
the pollen should be collected and kept in a wooden or metal box
to protect it from humidity and insects.
Farmers closely inspect a male date palm flower
way to dry the pollen is to hang the flowers on a rope in
a well ventilated room. Pollen dried in this manner can
be preserved for two to three months before they are used.
dried under four degree centigrade can be kept for as long
as one year. Another method is to keep the flowers in thin
layers of paper or on a mesh so that pollen is collected
after they fall from the buds.
carry out the manual pollination process, pollens are collected
and pressed into a piece of cotton the size of an almond.
flower of a female tree requires two such pieces for pollination.
It is better to tie the cotton piece carrying the pollens
lightly on to the flower by a small rope or straw.
the event of rain or strong winds, pollination must be repeated.
One can also blow pollen into the flowers if there are plenty
of male flowers.
time of blossoming and pollination varies according to the different
types of date palms. Those grown in hot areas blossom faster.
Fairis from California noted that as soon as the date fruit turns
ripe, buds carrying pollens start growing on the tree for the
spring, the flower buds become ready, but will be fully covered
and start blossoming only at the start of summer.
takes a month or more depending on the intensity of heat. The
hotter the weather, the shorter the blossoming period. Some date
palms blossom twice a year while the majority takes as long as
three months to complete the single blossoming process.
amount of fruit yielded by a date palm depends on the quantity
of nutrients it receives and general care and environment.
well looked after date palm can yield as many as 20 bunches
of fruit.Date palms yield fruit in alternate years, producing
in a year and resting in the next.
factors affecting the quantity and quality of date crop
are the type of pollens and climatic conditions during pollination.
date palm starts blossoming and giving fruit after the fourth
or sixth year. Date palms grown in sandy or poor soil start
giving fruit before the ones grown on rich soil, because
the latter's priority is to accumulate leaves and then bear
days, male date flowers are sold in traditional markets
such as Ibri. During the date flowering season, the daily
auctioning in Ibri market in fact starts with male date
trader shows two male date palm flowers ready for pollination
auction of date palm flowers in full swing at Ibri market
male flowers mature in the month of January and the elongated
flower buds fetch up to RO10 each depending on their size.
bin Hamed al Yaqoubi, an auctioneer, said that many farmers
preferred to buy male flowers to carry out pollination.
daily average sales in the traditional market in Ibri touched
about 100 male flowers, he added.Last year, the male flowers
were in big demand as female plants flowered early.
year, however, the male flowers appeared in time and hence
the price was normal, Al Yaqoubi said.
determine the quality of male date flowers by their smell
and other features. The pollination period could last up to
40 days, he added.
© Adapted from Oman Observer.