Muscat: The production of tissue palm seedlings in 2020 reached about 80,000 while the total volume hit 820,000 seedlings from 1997 ill 2020, according to the Tissue Culture and Biotechnology Research Center.
It is expected, however, that the production capacity will reach more than 100,000 palm seedlings annually after the completion of the expansion works and providing the center with the appropriate human and material capabilities.
Since its inception in 1992, the Center propagates palm seedlings from high-quality Omani varieties such as Khalas al Dhahirah, Khalas Oman, Fard, Bohbisha, Khunaizi, Majhoul, Naghal, and other various types. It also introduces new types from outside the Sultanate that have high commercial returns to be produced and experienced by farmers.
The number of date palm types that have been introduced for tissue propagation until 2020 has reached about 93. Thirty of them are not local. Dates varieties are introduced for multiplication based on their comparative advantage in different wilayats, their quality, economic importance to the local community, and based on the behavior of the community’s consumption of dates.
Currently, varieties of palm trees, such as Fard , Khalas Al Dhahirah , Majhoul, Fahl Al Khoury - Fahl Al Bahlani, are being multiplied in large numbers annually
for the ‘One million date palm’ project. Besides, five other varieties are being multiplied annually to keep pace with farmers' demand.
Tissue Culture and Biotechnology Research Center, located in Jamah, wilayat of Bahla, is considered one of the pioneering projects of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and one of the national strategy’s contents for the advancement of date palms.
It was established specifically to multiply the distinct varieties of palm trees that are desirable at the local and global level, and to preserve the economic importance of the palm tree and direct it towards foreign markets as an important economic tributary.
The main objective of introducing tissue technology is to increase the agricultural area, in terms of quantity and quality, especially in the field of date palms, and to provide different plants with excellent varieties and completely free of diseases.
Among the other goals are multiplying palm seedlings from Omani varieties of high quality to implement the ministry's policy for replacement programmes and the ‘One million palm tree’ project of the Diwan of Royal Court, as well as to introduce new types from outside the Sultanate with global commercial returns.
The Center uses this technology to face future dangers like the red palm weevil and produce diseases-free and high-quality plants like banana, pineapple, papaya, garlic, and rose. It also looks into training and preparing the Omani cadres specialised in this field.
Tissue culture is defined as the cultivation of any part of the plant, whether it is an organ, tissue, or cell, inside laboratory tubes in special food media, and under sterile environmental conditions. Its importance lies in the production of large numbers of plants identical to the mother plant in a relatively short time, free of pests and diseases, and facilitates the preservation and exchange of genetic structures.
Specialists at the Center were able to multiply varieties other than palm trees, such as banana seedlings as the production reached about 20,000 seedlings in 2019.
Additionally, there is an attempt to propagate pineapple trees and experiment in the farms of the Najd region and the royal farms. Moreover, work is underway on propagating the Sultan Qaboos Rose, some citrus trees, frankincense, thyme, saffron, papaya, and garlic trees.