IBRAHIM ALABDULHADI1, HASSAN ALI-DINAR2, GEORG EBERT3
1National Date Palm Research Center, Alhassa, Saudi
2King Faisal University, Date Palm Research Center, College of Agric. and Food Sciences, Saudi
3Humboldt-Universitšt zu Berlin, Department of Fruit Science, Germany
Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) is the major fruit crop in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia covering approximately 72% of the total area under permanent crops. The estimated number of date palm trees in the Kingdom is 18 million. About 65% are bearing trees with an annual production of 700,000 tons. More than 400 different date palm cultivars are estimated to exist in Saudi Arabia. Date palm is a multi-purpose tree, being highly estimated as a well-reputed national heritage to the Saudi population. It provides food, shelter, timber products and all parts of the palm can be used in many different ways. Due to its importance in peoples daily life and its tolerance to the harsh environmental desert conditions, areas under cultivation have tremendously increased over the past few years. Despite the fact that only 6% of the total fruit production is exported, growers and investors are looking forward to opportunities to enter the international markets. Improvement of marketing and export efficiency for date palm growers is a high priority aspect for both public and private sectors.
This paper briefly reviews the agronomical and economical facts of date palm production in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It also reflects past and current scientific efforts to improve this important sector, in addition to possible constrains that may hamper the further development of date production. Scientific programmes for improving date palm cultivation and production have covered a wide range of activities in the field of biotechnology, physiological and phytosanitary aspects, postharvest handling, processing and marketing.
A joint project on date palm stress physiology of Humboldt University of Berlin, the National Date Palm Research Center and King Faisal University in Alhassa will be introduced.
Keywords: Date palm, research, Saudi Arabia