“It’s an initiative of the Punjab government, under the guidance of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Secretary Agriculture Muhammad Mahmud, to grow top five varieties including Arabian variety ‘Ajwa’, said Muhammad Akhlaq, a researcher at the Horticultural Research Station (HRS), Bahawalpur.
The other kinds of dates include three Arabic varieties i.e Amber, Barhi, Khalas and a Californian date called Medjoul. The project titled ‘Diversification of High Value Cropping Through Promotion of Horticulture’ was designed after expertiments at the HRS Bahawalpur showed 100 per cent survival of the foreign plants and their fruit-bearing.
He disclosed that the tissue culture plants of these varieties would be developed in France, hardened in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and from there these will be imported into Pakistan. Akhlaq said that these plants would be distributed among date farmers free of charge despite the fact that price of every premium plant was around Rs 20,000.
The distribution of plants would be carried out through a process of draw and in return farmers would be required to provide the government at least 5-8 suckers or off-shoots per plant so that these top quality date varieties could be multiplied at home.
It will help Pakistan develop a germplasm pool of premium quality dates.
Upon reaching Punjab, these plants would be nurtured inside tunnels for their acclimatization under a little bit controlled conditions at the HRS Bahawalpur before they are handed over to the date farmers.
Initially, fine quality water would be given to these plants, he added. The researcher also dilated upon the problem the datepalm trees face in Pakistan i.e the commencement of monsoon season at the ripening stage of dates that do not let the fruit dry up while hanging on trees due to rains and reduce chances of obtaining semi-dried dates of premium quality.
He explained that there would be some covering material treated with fungicide around date bunches so that these do not get wet due to monsoon rains and do not develop fungus. Akhlaq said that farmers would get training at their respective districts through audio-visuals after every three months on datepalm care technology.
Each farmers would get 100 plants for an acre. Akhlaq said that HRS Bahawalpur covers districts of South Punjab and others including Bhakkar, Layyah, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh, Multan, Bahawalpur, Rahimyar Khan, and Jhang and datepalm trees of top five kinds would be planted in these areas.
The plants would hopefully be available in Pakistan at the end of 2018, Akhlkaq said adding that it would be an opportunity for the date farmers to earn handsome and improve their lifestyle.