Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Fruits and Nuts
Publication Type: Book / chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2005
Publication Date: 10/1/2007
Citation: Chao, C.T., Krueger, R. 2007. Date palm. Encyclopedia of Fruits and Nuts. Edited by J. Janick. Pages 138-151 Interpretive Summary: This book chapter reviews date palm biology and cultivation. Date palms are an important food source in Middle Eastern and North African countries, and have a large social and cultural role in Arab and Islamic culture. Date palms most probably originated in the area near the current country of Iraq and have been cultivated for millennia in that area. Date palm cultivation subsequently spread to most areas in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia having suitable climates (high summer temperatures and abundant ground water). Date palms are dioecious, monocotyledonous, perennial trees with unique cultural and management practices. Most date palm varieties are traditional and well established. Breeding programs are made more difficult by the long life cycle, long juvenile period, and dioeciousness of the date palms. Tissue culture and other biotechnological techniques, particularly molecular marker systems, have some promise for improving the efficiency of date palm breeding and are already important in the production of traditional__ date palm varieties in some countries. It is projected that date production in the traditional date-producing countries will increase despite production challenges.
Technical Abstract: This book chapter reviews date palm biology and cultivation. Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) is one of the oldest fruit crops grown in the arid regions of the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, and the Middle East. The exact origin of the date palm is unknown but most probably the area of origin was in or near what is now the country of Iraq. Subsequently, date cultivation has been introduced to many countries with suitable climates, and is a major food source and income source for local populations in the Middle East and North Africa. Date palms play significant roles in the economy, society, and environment in these areas. The date palm is a diploid, perennial, dioecious, and monocotyledonous plant adapted to arid environments with special biology, development, propagation, culture, and management issues. Thousands of date palm varieties exist in different date growing countries. Most of these are traditional varieties, as the long life cycle, long period of juvenility, and dioecism of date palms make breeding challenging. Different genetic marker systems have been used to study genetic relationships among date palm varieties. Date palms currently face production challenges and will do so in the future, but worldwide date production will continue to grow, especially in the Middle East.