information on this research in Agricultural Research magazine.
Dates Go Under
Cover in California
January 6, 2000
Date-palm trees languishing on poor
soils may be making a comeback in California, thanks to sustainable agriculture
practices developed by an Agricultural
Research Service scientist. ARS is the U.S.
Department of Agricultures chief research agency.
In recent years, California date growers have noticed a decline in fruit
quality. To help solve the problem, ARS plant physiologist Aref Abdul-Baki,
with the agencys Vegetable Laboratory in
Beltsville, Md., teamed up with Coachella Valley date growers to improve the
Results from an extensive soil profile study of date orchards, covering
about 1400 acres, revealed that trees were suffering from poor nutrition and
compacted soil, both of which prevent roots from pushing down deep for needed
water and nutrients.
Growers are working to correct this problem by adopting Abdul-Bakis
no-tillage system that calls for growing cover crops to improve soil quality.
Growers planted two legume cover crops, Lana vetch and Clay Iron cow peas.
These crops harbor beneficial bacteria that take nitrogen from the air and fix
it in the soil where plant roots feed.
This farming system reduced cultivation and production costs, loosened
compacted soils, added organic matter, recycled nutrients and reduced soil
temperature that, if too high, stresses roots. It will take about five years to
see the full benefits of this sustainable no-tillage system.
As a result of Abdul-Bakis work in California, about 5000 acres in the
Coachella Valley are incorporating cover crops into vegetable and fruit
More information on this research appears in the January issue of Agricultural
Research magazine. Click
to view it on the web.
Scientific contact: Aref Abdul-Baki, ARS Vegetable Laboratory,
Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504- 5057, fax (301) 504-5555,