Better date palm pollination tech helps farmers improve harvest

The pollination of date palms determines the development and growth of the plant and is a great way to gauge the plant’s lifecycle and productivity. Done by farmers at a specific period in the growth process, modern measures are not being conductive to improve both the quality and quantity of fruit production.

“Luqah” is a student company that was borne out of the Injaz Oman initiative. This startup specialised in developing and producing plant fertilization pollens that aid date palm farmers in improving their annual yields.

“Our company focused on producing palm tree pollen for several reasons. Most important of these reasons is that the Sultanate has a large number of these plants and farmers are dependent on their productivity,” said Mouath Al-Shuaili, the company’s CEO.

The Sultanate relies heavily on the production of dates. The national production of dates has reached a total of 368,940 tons in 2018 based on the statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries

Date palms are plants that do not self-pollinate according to Mouath. He shared that farmers often have to be manually part of the pollination process and doing manual pollution not only consume a lot of time, it is also financially draining and labour intensive.

With this gap in the process, Mouath and his team dedicated time and research to find a method that will help date farmers save them from their perennial burden.

“Luqah” product can be a good choice for farmers for many reasons. Normally, pollen is very sensitive to temperature and humidity and it quickly loses its vitality, but as Mouath shared, the company’s product can be kept at room temperature.

“We have formulated a mixture that preserves the vitality of pollen grains at a temperature of 45 degrees Celsius. Since all plants are exposed to direct sunlight and the temperature can go higher than 45 in the summer, the product proved its success in such circumstances,” he shared.

“The Luqah” product, as Mouath noted, is packed in spray cans to make it easy for the user to preserve and use.

“All a farmer has to do is to direct the nozzle of the spray cans to specific parts in the head of the palm,” he said.

The company is also busy working to develop pollination technologies. “We are currently developing technologies to make it even easier for farmers owning large farms that include more than 50 palm trees. This is by employing artificial intelligence techniques through robots and drones,” he said.

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The product saves farmers a great deal of money because only a small spray will do the magic.

“The results of the field experiments carried out indicated that one spray is sufficient to pollinate the date palm tree, and in rare cases has it been found that they needed two spray cans,” he noted.

“The product’s substance helps the pollen grain to stick in the palm’s female parts. The pollen grain is also preserved from damage until the female flower blooms and pollinates it,” he added.

This saves a lot of the pollen powder used in the pollination process.

“As in the traditional method, the farmer consumes 1.5-3 grams per palm in varying sprinkles, but Luqah product consumes 0.28 – 0.5 grams per palm,” he said.

It is natural for any project to face challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge for “Luqah” product is the seasonality of pollinating palm trees. “We must wait a whole year before we get the opportunity to set up field experiments, which is the important part of the study and research,” he explained.

While the Luqah product is still in its baby steps phase, the company had received a great turn out from farmers to try this solution.

“We advertised for the product through social media and it worked not only internally in Oman, we even got some requests from outside the country,” the CEO said.

He added, “Early next year, we anticipate that the product will be available in the market with an initial production number of 1000 spray cans. After testing the satisfaction of consumers, we will start the commercial production. Consumers can reach us on (@_luqah.om).”

 

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