Our experiment with Dates

After visiting few Date farms in south India I was confident that this fruit tree would be a good idea for Nagpur as the temperature goes up to 48 degrees in the summer. In the year 2009 we bought Tissue Cultured Date Palm plants from south India and planted in our farm. People laughed at us and made fun of it as they thought that it is the “sindi” plant which is used to extract a kind of liquor.

When the trees matured and reached the fourth year the first flowers appeared and we were so overwhelmed. The final fruits appeared to the surprise of every one. As our farm is situated near the main road every one passing by stopped and looked at the strange tree. We sold the fruits from the farm itself for Rs. 300 per kilo. People appreciated as the taste was different and much better than the one available in the market. 

The season of dates start in the year when we clean up the trees after the end of the dormant period. This is just the perfect time, when we have to start by cutting the thorns off of the date fronds. A Date tree is surrounded by thorns all across its body. They have thorns that are approximately 4 to 5 inches long, and can easily pierce thru a truck tire. So the very first thing we do is to remove the thorns to make it possible to work in the date trees.

More about dates:

The sex life of Date Palms are unique with their male tree or a female tree. The male trees produce pollen, and the female trees produce flowers. Unfortunately, neither birds or bees are attracted to the flowers, so the females have to be hand pollinated. Now, it is during the later part of February we begin to watch for the sheaths on the male trees to begin splitting open. We check each tree every single day. As soon as a sheath on a male tree begins to open, it is tied with string to hold it together, and removed from the tree.

Here you get a much better view of the pollen because the sheath is split wide open. Once the sheath on the male tree opens, we will cut the whole sheath out of the tree, then hang it upside down to dry. Once the pollen has dried to a very fine powder, we sift it into a large air-tight container for storage. The female sheaths are removed and every stand is separated. We then tie the strands together and hand pollinate the flowers using the fresh pollen that we have collected from the male trees. We use a small ketchup squirt bottle for this process. We pollinate each female tree at least three times. The bud grows in around April or May, we will begin the thinning process.

First, we open up each bunch of strands that we have tied together, and cut out the middle, leaving only the outside strands. Then we remove about 60% of the dates from each strand. This allows better air flow, and the chance for each individual date to grow to it's optimum size.
There are very less dates on the strand. But the number of dates on the trees are high and so its very easy to grow them in our own area.

Watering and irrigating the dates tress:

They need as much water as we can help them in giving. They take water from rain or via any other sources. That's why dates have to be grown in the hot desert, where our average rainfall is less than 3 inches per year, and our summer temperatures reach nearly 120 degrees.

Special "borders" are built up around the trees in order to flood irrigate and contain the water at the root of the tree. They scoop up the sand and they form the border around the sand. Each tree requires approximately nine acre-feet of water per year, but only at its roots!

Transplanting date pups:

The tree is also grown through pups. This guarantees that both the tree and the fruit produced will be identical to the parent. It takes between 6 to 8 years before the pups will be big enough to transplant, and then another six or seven years before they will begin to produce. Tissue Cultured Date Plants start its fruits after four years.

Talking about their description, dates come in from the grove already ripe, but occasionally we get some that are still yellow. So, the yellow ones should be consumed first. The dates should be kept under the sun to continue the ripening process. The dates are emptied from the trays onto a shaker table that rocks gently back and forth. The table is covered in wet terry cloth towels. As the dates roll very slowly down the table, they are cleaned by the wet towels. They are then removed from the storage and left free.

Preparation of the land for Tissue cultured Date plants

1. Assure fencing and irrigation system installations before going for plantation.

2. Mark the points at 24 X 24 ft spacing in the field.

3. Dig pit of 1mt x 1 mt x 1mt (L*W*H) size . While digging the pit , the excavated top soil of the pit (1/3 depth of pit) should be heaped separately and the bottom 2/3 soils should be kept in separate heap.

4. Mix the top soil heap with -
(a) 20-25 kg well decomposed cow dung manure or 5-7 kg Vermicompost or 3-5 kg well decomposed goat manure.
(b) 1.5 kg Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) and
(c) Furadan granules (Carbofuran) @ 20-25 gram

5. Fill this mixture (point no-4) to the bottom of pit

6. The remaining pit should be filled with soils of the second heap of bottom 2/3 soils.

7. Irrigate the pit fully to settle all soils to the pit.

8. All the pits of field should be completed in this above way.

9. At the time of actual plantation, slightly bigger sized(1 to 1.5 inch diameter pit than the actual plant container/bag size be dug in the middle of all marked pits. The pit depth should be slightly less (2 inch) so that the plantation can happen slightly on raised mound from the general ground level.

10. After making this pit, take the plant in hand, cut the bottom line of bag with sharp blade, remove cut bottom plastic and make a half way vertical cut from bottom on plastic, and immediately put your hand underneath the bottom of bag. Put the whole root ball with the plastic bag in the pit and raise soils from all around and slowly pulling the plastic bag to avoid shattering of root ball media.

11. Please assure that the plant should be approximately 2-3 inch above the general ground level without burying the bulb of the plant with soil.

12. Make a ring around the plant about 1.5 feet away from the plant and give irrigation at the fullest in the ring only.

13. To protect the plant from heavy cold/hot/dry wind/storm, create a bamboo structure along with green shade net / gunny cloths for first 4-6 months to avoid any damage like plant uprooting/ slanting/bend growth, etc.

14. Irrigate the plant to maintain optimum moisture conditions in the root zone for first 1.5 months for 100% establishments of roots in the native soil.


tissue cultured Date plants, Dates vidarbha, Dates nagpur, Thangavel plantation, Dates khajoor, Khajoor dates