Commercial dates farming is not a too common and popular farming business. But in India, and some other countries, commercial date farming business is growing day by day. And it can be a great business idea for making some extra profits with less work and less investment.
Phoenix dactylifera, commonly known as date or date palm, is actually a flowering plant species in the palm family, Arecaceae. It is cultivated for it’s edible sweet fruit.
Exact place of origin of date palm is uncertain, because of long cultivation. It probably originated from the Fertile Crescent region strading between Egypt and Mesopotamia.
This palm is widely cultivated across North Africa, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and South Asia. And it is naturalized in many tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world.
Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East and the Indus Valley for thousands of years. There is archaeological evidence of date farming in Arabia from the 6th millennium BCE.
Dates are actually the biggest oasis and desert cash crop. They are harvested from the palm trees and dried out in the sun and stored for the wintertime when they supply food for a family as well assist herds of camels, goats, and sheep.
Date palms grow fairly well in high alkaline and salty soil and water. And the trees generally require very little maintenance. The trees are generally grown from shoots and the trees begin bearing fruit within 4 to 8 years.
In India, currently many people are showing interest in commercial date farming. And there are already many dates orchards established in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.
Currently, total annual world production of dates amounts to 8.5 million metric tons. And the countries of the Middle East and North Africa are the largest dates producers. And currently, Iran is the world’s largest dates producer and exporter.
Dates Nutritional Benefits
Dates are great source of a wide range of essential nutrients, and are a very good source of dietary potassium. The sugar content of ripe dates is about 80 percent, and the remainder consists of fiber, protein, and trace elements including boron, cobalt, copper, fluorine, magnesium, manganese, selenium and zinc.
- The glycemic index for three different varieties of dates are 35.5 (khalas), 49.7 (barhi), and 30.5 (bo ma’an). The caffeic acid glycoside 3-O-caffeoylshikimic acid (also known as dactylifric acid) and its isomers, are enzymic browning substrates found in dates.
- Dates are free from cholesterol and generally contain very little amount of fat.
- Dates are great source of protein. Adding some dates in your regular diet may be very helpful for keeping your muscles strong. That’s why a lot of regular gym goers are asked to eat a couple of dates every day as part of their daily routine.
- Dates are good source of some important vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B5, A1 and vitamin C. You don’t have to take vitamin supplements if you have a few dates every day.
- Dates contain different types of minerals which are essential for maintaining and improving your bone health.
- Date are loaded with potassium, and yet contain little sodium, and that goes a long way in keeping your nervous system in order.
- The dates also contain some amount of iron, which is highly recommended for the people who suffer from iron deficiency.
- If you eat some dates regularly, then your digestive system will improve. Because, it is high in fiber content.
- Dates are good source of vitamin C and D, and it is a good food for your good skin.
- Regular consumption of dates, helps in weight gain.
Advantages of Dates Farming
Commercial dates farming business is very easy, and it has many benefits or advantages. The date palm trees generally require less care, so it’s very easy to start this business.
You can start dates farming business commercially for making good profits. You can start this business, even if you are a beginner. Here we are shortly describing about the top advantages of commercial date farming business.
- It is a very old business idea, and many people are already doing this business.
- Caring the date palm trees is very easy. So, you can take this opportunity for making profits.
- Demand and price of dates are very high in both domestic and international market.
- The date palm trees generally grow almost everywhere.
- Commercial dates farming can be a good business idea for you, if you are an unemployed educated person. It can also be a great employment source.
- Production costs in this business is relatively less, and the returns is good.
- Marketing dates is very easy, because this fruit has very good demand and value in the market. So, you will be able to easily sell your products in the local market.
- Consuming dates regularly has many health benefits. And you can enjoy fresh dates if you grow of your own.
How to Start Dates Farming
Starting both commercial or small scale dates farming is very easy and simple. Date palm trees generally require less caring. So, you will be able to easily start and operate this business, even if you are a beginner.
The date palm trees generally grow well in almost all types of environment with the availability of full sun. And almost all types of soil are good for date farming.
Here in this guide, we are trying to describe more information about dates farming business from planting, caring to harvesting and marketing.
Select Good Location
First of all, you have to select a very good location for staring your dates farming business. It will be better if the selected land become fertile and well drained with exposure to full sun.
The date palm trees generally grow in all types of soils, and the plants can tolerate salinity. Soil with pH 8 to 11 is considered as ideal condition.
Sandy loamy soil with good moisture retaining, aeration and proper drainage system are perfect for best growth of the plants and higher fruit yields. But soils having calcium carbonate in it should be avoided for dates cultivation.
Prepare the Soil
You have to prepare the soil perfectly before planting the date palm trees. The date palm plants generally require deep loam soils which is well-drained.
The selected land should be capable of holding moisture. These trees can also be grown in lower yield saline or alkaline soils.
Add sufficient amount of organic materials or farmyard manure while preparing the soil.
Application of chemical fertilizers such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous is also important. You should apply chemical fertilizers at regular intervals, and decrease dosage as the plants grow older.
Climate Requirement For Date Farming
Suitable climatic conditions for dates farming include long summer days, high temperature, and mild winters without frost. And all these climatic conditions ensure optimum growth, flowering and fruiting.
The average minimum temperature is about 20°C for good growth and survival of the plants. And a temperature of about 35°C is required at the time of pollination.
The date palm trees can tolerate cold winters, but with no frost and light rain. A low relative humidity, absence of rain and hot temperatures with warm nights is required during flowering and fruit setting.
Best Time For Dates Cultivation
The date palm trees can be planted anytime. But July to September is considered as the best time for planting the date palm trees.
Choose a Variety
There are several hundreds of varieties of date palm available throughout the world. And all these varieties have been developed for thousands of years.
But all these varieties are not good for commercial production purpose. Here we are describing about the most common and popular varieties for commercial dates farming, which have very good demand and value in the market.
Barhee: The Barhee (also known as Barhi) is a high yielding date variety. The trees have a large trunk and are of medium height. The fruit stalks are long, wide and heavy. The fruit is light amber to dark brown in color and cylindrical in shape. The ripe fruits are soft with thick flesh and rich flavor. A tree yields about 6 to 20 bunches of dates and each bunch can weight between 8 and 15 kg.
Deglet Noor: The fruits of Deglet Noor variety are oblong in shape, light as well as dark brown in coloration with huge seed. The fruits are a semi-hard and chewy type.
Halawi: The Halawi date variety is tolerant to humidity. The tree produces fruits that are caramel-honey flavor and are medium in size.
Khastawi: The fruits are syrupy and relatively smaller in size. The trees can thrive well in desert conditions. The fruits are resistant to humidity, and the trees are generally large and vigorous.
Kimia: Kimia is a very popular date variety. It melts in the mouth, and has properties that improve health. Even the diabetic patients can also relish the fruits. The fruits are of black color, creamy and luscious.
Medjool: The Medjool is also another common and popular dates variety. The trees start producing fruits from five years onwards. Each tree start to yield about 10 kg of fruit in the early years and produce about 80 kg from the 10th year onwards. The fruits are generally large in size, soft texture and rich flavored. These fruits are good for diabetic patients as it is suger-free, while rich in other essential minerals.
Sagai: Exact color of the fruits is not consistent, and can range between medium brown to very light brown. The fruits are wrinkles but with no flake and it is milk in sweetness. It has great demand in the market.
Zahdi: The Zahdi is one of the oldest dates varieties. The fruits are generally of medium size, cylindrical in shape and light-brown in color. The trees have a big trunk and fast growing. This is one of the heavy bearing varieties with less tolerance to high humidity.
Most of the date farmers do not like the propagation of seed, as it results in low fruit quality and more than half of these fruits may be male-free.
So propagation in date palm farming is done by off-shoots from the base of the tree of the parent.
The seeds from the best varieties are planted in plastic bags in the nursery. And you have to transplant the young seedlings to the main field during monsoon season.
Seeds/Off-Shoots Per Hectare
Exact amount of seed can vary depending on the variety and planting methods. The date palm trees are perennial in nature and have a long life of approximately 50 years, even more.
Square planting method is followed for dates farming, and a range of 8 meters between the rows is maintained for proper intercultural operations and development in this process.
For commercial dates farming, the plant density is around 160 plants per hectare of land. And around 10 percent of these must be male off-shoots for providing sufficient pollen-grains as the dates are dioecious fruits.
You can purchase the young seedlings and plant directly into the prepared land. Square planting method is followed for commercial dates farming. Planting both male and female off-shoots is very important for providing sufficient pollen-grains as the dates are dioecious fruits.
Male plants about 3 to 5 percent are planted at equi-distance between the female plants in the farm. Digging the pits at a spacing of 8 X 8 meter are recommended for commercial dates cultivation.
Taking additional caring is important for commercial dates farming business. Although, the date palm trees generally require less care.
Caring the date palm trees is very easy and simple. Here we are trying to describe more about the caring process for dates farming business.
Applying both organic and chemical fertilizers is very important for good growth of the plants and good yield. Apply as much organic fertilizers as you can in the field.
And apply chemical N: P: K fertilizers in the 30:20:50 kg/ha ratio. In India, the dosage of’ N’ IS 1.40 kg/tree is recommended. An adult tree needs 600 grams of’ N’ and 100 grams of’ P’ and’ K’ each year when it comes to annual requirements.
Sufficient watering is very important for successful dates farming business. You can provide regular irrigation through drip irrigation.
Although, the date palm trees can grow well in dry regions and tolerate drought, yet proper irrigation will help in a proper growth of the trees on the farm.
The date palm trees which are properly watered will produce good harvest. But avoid excess irrigation, as it will damage the roots.
Exact amount of watering vary depending on many factors. The old date palm trees require irrigation once in a week during the summer season, and once in two weeks during winter.
Mulching is beneficial for retaining moisture into the soil and also controlling weeds. You can use organic materials for mulching.
Weeds are harmful for all types of plants. They consume nutrients from the soil and the plants suffer. So try to control the weeds from your field.
Pruning should be carried out on a regular basis. Remove the old and diseased leaves timely. Doing so will make the date farm to look fresh and healthy. Pruning consists of removing spines, and removal of undesirable inflorescences.
Generally, the number of leaves on the date palm trees decides the quantity of held inflorescences. Removal of excess leaves will affect the fruit growth, quality, and maturing of the fruits will be decreased.
Individual date palm trees are either female or male. That’s why hand pollination is recommended for a successful harvest.
Hand pollination means placing of strands from the male flower over the stigmas of the carpels of the female flowers for pollen grains.
You must have to be skilled and known when the female flowers will blossom, and have to be ready to receive pollen grains. 3 to 5 male trees are sufficient for every 100 female matured trees.
Thinning of Dates
Thinning of dates is important for getting the fruits in desired size and shape. There are actually 3 methods for thinning the fruits.
- Removing few strands from the bunch center.
- Reducing strand length by cutting.
- And, removing a number of fruits on each strand.
Pruning is helpful for improving fruit quality, both in size and in nutrition. Pruning also helps in yielding high-quality fruits which will fetch good market value. It is found that in a bunch by removing one-third of strands from the center yielded high-quality fruits.
Pests & Diseases
The dates palm trees are susceptible to some diseases and pets. Here we are shortly describing about all these.
Common diseases of the date palm trees are listed below.
Diplodia: Diplodia disease is caused by fungus. Secure wounds and cuts from Bordeaux mixture pruning to monitor this.
Khamedj: In neglected plantations, the fungus induced warm, humid climatic conditions. It is necessary to remove and burn infected spathes. Palms with diseased Bordeaux mixture should be treated.
Bayoud: It is a fungal disease affecting offshoots, young plants and even mature trees at their base. You can control this disease in the early states through soil treatment. Destroying the infected tree by uprooting and incinerated is the best method to stop spreading the disease. Treat the soil with methyl bromide or chlorepicrin and replanting is avoided.
Black Scorch: This disease is also called ‘Fool’s disease’, caused by a fungus. The affected trees will have black scorch on the leaves, trunk gets rotted, inflorescence blight, and also rotting of buds. Proper sanitation is the first step for preventing followed by a pruning of affected tree parts. Apply copper-based fungicides on the pruning cuts.
Omphalia Root Rot: This is also known as ‘Decline disease’. The affected date trees how premature fronds death followed by retardation and cessation of growth. Spray Brestan or Dexon about 4 doses once in two weeks for controlling this disease.
Some common pests of the date palm trees are listed below.
Bou Faroua: These mites are also known as ‘Goubar mites’. They are common in all date palm growing places. The larva of these mites feeds on fruits, causing considerable damage to the yield. The mites lay eggs on the fruit stalks and near the calyx area. Dust the date brunches with 100 to 150 grams of sulfur per tree for controlling these mites.
White Scale: This pests cause severe damage to young plantations that are 2 t 8 years old. Both nymphs and adults suck the sap from midribs, leaves and even from the fruits. Though the pest attack is not a severe attack on the plantation, but fruits that are infected are not marketable that will reduce the income. Use mineral oils for reducing the pest infestation.
Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle: These beetles are also harmful for the date palm trees. Consult with an expert in your area for controlling this.
The date trees will be prepared for producing fruits after 6 to 7 years of planting. And you can expect to harvest fruits after 6 to 7 years of planting. Although, total yield will be less in the initial stages.
Dates are actually eaten at different stages depending on the variety. So harvesting depends on local demand.
In India, the dates are harvested at the ‘Doka’ stage for preventing any damage caused by moisture in the wind.
Exact yield is difficult to say, because it depends on various factors. But with good growing conditions and under best farming practices, each tree can produce a yield of about 100 to 125 of fruits. The date palm trees generally take time to produce fruits in the early years, but will bear fruits for the next 20 to 70 years.
Marketing dates is very easy and simple. Because dates have very good demand and value in the market. So you will probably be able to sell the fruits in the local market.
These are the common steps and ways for starting and operating a successful dates farming business. Hope this guide has helped you! Good luck & may God bless you!