NIZWA, FEB 24 – For those engaged in palm cultivation, season for plant pollination is very important. This is an exciting time for the people engaged in this sector as everyone young and old, men and women work to organise the pollination of date palms.
Date palms are dioecious — male and female. After reaching maturity, the male date palm yields flowers that produce the pollen while the female date palm yields flowers which finally become dates if they are pollinated.
The male date palms usually produce from 5 to 10 large flowers each year. The flower stalks of palms are produced inside a spathe called (chmarikh). It is in close and varying lengths. Its colour is white and characterised by a distinct aroma and pollen. A male spathe that is ready to split open changes colour from green to brown, and the spathe becomes softer. Farmers usually harvest the male flowers within 24 hours when the spathe splits open to avoid loss of pollen.
The date palm pollination season usually begin from January to the end of March, and may extend to the beginning of April, especially in the very cold seasons.
Nowadays markets of the Sultanate of Oman are witnessing an active movement to buy and sell pollen sprouts (male date palm flowers). The movement of buying and selling the pollen sprouts is very active these days. This period is the beginning of the season of palm germination, when the fruits start to appear in a large number of palm trees. So you find all the owners of palm plantations come to the market to buy the pollen sprouts to fertilise their palms, as the palm trees cannot be left without germination.
Salim al Batrani, seller of pollen in Nizwa market, said: “The prices vary according to the type and size of the plant. The best quality of pollen sprouts is from Nizwa, Al Hamra, Manah, and Bahla. At the first appearance of the plant on the market, the highest price for the best quality plant was from Omani Rial 20 to 40. The price was high because the palm trees began to produce dates, but the pollen sprouts is not widely available. The farmer has to buy the pollen sprouts to pollinate his palms, even if it is expensive. As without this germination, dates will not fruit. Although prices will decrease a lot after days due to the large number of pollen sprouts on the market, where prices now range from 500 Baisa to RO 1.”
There are several methods used for date palm pollination. The oldest and simplest pollination technique is placing an entire male flower spathe in the crown of the female date palm and leaving the pollination to wind, bees and other insects. But the most common technique of pollination is to cut the strands of male flowers from opened male spathe and place two to three of these strands, lengthwise between the strands of the female inflorescence after some pollen has been shaken over the female inflorescence.
Then they wait until fertilisation is completed, which continues for many days and is helped by the heat of the summer to get various fruits of the palm trees.
PHOTO BY SAMI AL HINAI