Global date production at risk due to pests and diseases
FAO launches Global Date Palm Network
13 July 2004, Rome -- Date palm production is facing serious problems, such as low yields, due to the lack of research, the spread of pests as well as marketing constraints, FAO said today.
FAO has recently launched a Global Date Palm Network to promote research and exchange of information on production, resources and on the ecological and social benefits of date palms.
Date palms are mainly grown in southwest Asia and North Africa.
Dates are an extremely important subsistence crop in most of the desert regions. For millions of people, dates are an important nutritional element contributing to food security. They also form a vital part of the culture and agrobiodiversity in the region.
Over the last decade, productivity has declined in the traditional growing areas. As much as 30 percent of production may potentially be lost as a result of disease and pests. In the Middle East, the Red Palm Weevil has recently become one of the major date palm pests, while "bayoud" disease, which is caused by a parasitic fungus, is a common threat to date palms in North Africa.
Date production in the Gulf region amounted in 2002 to around 65 percent of world output and in Africa to about 35 percent. Global date production was about 5.4 million tonnes in 2002, according to FAO.
"Pests and diseases spread increasingly with the expansion of trade and travel in the globalizing world system," said Peter Kenmore of the FAO Plant Protection Service.
A recent workshop on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for date palms in the Gulf countries reviewed lessons learned from ecologically based IPM programmes on palm trees in Asia and Latin America, and recommended strengthening biological pest control strategies in the Near East.
The workshop also emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary research and field monitoring to discover and manage insects from a very early stage as priorities for a practical IPM strategy.
Quarantine systems should be complemented by field observations and education of farmers and farm workers. "Farmer Field Schools and the training of extension officers should be promoted," Kenmore said.
Algeria, Bahrain, Chile, Egypt, India, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Namibia, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, among other countries, have joined the Global Date Palm Network.
Information Officer, FAO
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