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Innovative eco-friendly technologies to boost-up date palm production       

Chair of Date Palm Research (formerly Red Palm Weevil Research Chair) has emerged after the Chair’s inaugural function presided by His Excellency the Director Prof. Dr. Abdullah bin Abdurrehman Al Othman, President of the University on Saturday, 16th of January 2010 (01/02/1431 H) at the College of Food and Agricultural Sciences, King Saud University.  The supervisor of the chair Dr. Saleh A. Aldosari gave the vision and mission of the new chair in the august presence of His Excellency Engr. Mohammed Al Sheeha, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, and Dean, College of Food and Agriculture Sciences, Prof. Dr. Hassan bin Abdullah Al-Qahtani.  The cultivation of date palms, Phoenix dactylifera in the Gulf region is known to exist for more than years as per the ancient texts. Date palm being an integral part of the culture and tradition of Arab world plays a pivotal role in viability and sustainability of the human life. There is mention of dates in the religious holy book of Qur’an and considered as a favorite food of Muslims all over the world during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. As a standout crop in the desert ecosystem, it not only provides a shield for under-crops, but also guards against soil erosion and minimizes damages from seasonal sand storms.  The nutritive value of date fruits as food is excellent and people living in these agro-climatic conditions are fully aware of it.  The per capita consumption in arid tropic countries is fairly high and ranges from 150-185 Kg/annum. Due to its superior nutritional value, date fruits are being increasingly consumed in non-traditional countries as well, thus creating a huge market for dates internationally. In view of these facts date palms still occupies a very special and significant place in the social and cultural life of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As far as the production of quality dates is concerned Saudi Arabia with nearly 23 million date palms and an estimated yield at around one million tons in 2008 is one of the largest producers in the world. Of this produce more than 65,903 tons were exported that fetched a foreign exchange to the tune of about SR 268 millions. For increasing the date production and productivity several methods like improved planting materials, better agronomic practices and plant protection methods are needed. The research on date palm-based cropping systems will help in sustaining the agro-systems of the arid zone for a long time. As we face global warming and climate change, serious thought should go in to evolving new eco-technologies which are sustainable. It is envisaged that the Chair will conduct research besides supporting collaborative research projects with public and private institutes inside the Kingdom and also foreign countries. The main thrust of the Chair will be to take forward the cutting edge technologies to the door step of the date palm farmer after validation and adoptive research. All avenues of research will be explored to find solutions for increasing the productivity of date palms. One of the corner stone for success of a technology is the dissemination of knowledge and all means will be used to reach the end user in this respect. For updating the understanding and knowledge about the date palm and imparting training to extension staff, regular courses will be conducted at national, GCC and international level. This kind of program, it is hoped will help in improving the skill sets of field workers to a great extent. Thus it is hoped that the vision and mission of the Chair will be realized.