Farmers must take adequate preventive measures to protect date palms from black scorch, a fungal disease, which is spreading across many governorates in the Sultanate, advised an agriculture ministry official.
Black scorch, also called Medjnoon or Fool's disease, has been observed on date palms in all date growing areas of the world. According to experts of the Food and Agriculture Organization, symptoms are usually expressed in four distinct forms: black scorch on the leaves, inflorescence blight, heart or trunk rot and bud rot on palms of all ages. Infections are all characterised by partial or complete damage of the tissues.
The disease gets its name from typical lesions, which are dark brown to black, hard, carbonaceous. It gives the fruit strands and fruit stalks a scorched, charcoal-like appearance.
Decay is most serious when it attacks the terminal bud and heart leading to the death of the palm. Some palms recover, but these palms show a characteristic bend in the region of infection. This is why it is called Medjnoon. They set normal growth back by several years.
Amin bin Mayouf al Hinai, Head of the Plant Protection Department, at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources, said: "We recommend farmers to combat these pests by using fungicides, which are of several types. Each of them should be used in recommended doses. The top of the affected palm tree and its trunk must be sprayed with the same solution," Al Hinai said.
According to al Hinai, these methods reduce the spread of the pest. The spraying of the fungicide should be repeated after two to three weeks.
Al Hinai explained that the delay in the methods of control leads to the death of the palm. “Delay in eliminating the black scorch may create hotspots of the pest and spread to other trees” he said, asking farmers to cooperate and in combating such diseases.
“Farmers should pay attention to irrigation, fertilisation, weed removal, and cleanliness of the palms. They also have to monitor the palm trees on an ongoing basis,” he said.
The affected fronds and leaves should be cut immediately and burned. After pruning, the surrounding tissues should be protected by spraying with Bordeaux mixture, lime-sulphur solution, or any copper-based fungicides. Under a severe attack, affected palms are to be removed and burnt.