14 May, 2009

The date palms of Hadhramout threatened

Date palms are amazing plants: they are dioecious, that is - they have separate male and female plants; they are naturally wind polluted; after planting, date palms take 4 to 7 years before bearing fruit; they ripen in four stages, which are known throughout the world by their Arabic names kimri (unripe), khalal (full-size, crunchy), rutab (ripe, soft), tamr (ripe, sun-dried; fresh dates are rich in vitamin C and energy; dried dates can be and are eaten by both humans and animals and young date leaves can be cooked and be eaten as vegetable. Dates can also be used as medicine. More on dates here, here, here and here.

Hadhramaut, especially Wady Hadhramout, is known for its many varieties of date palms. Dates have for centuries, sustained Hadharims; now the palm trees are threatened by disease.

This from the humanitarian agency IRIN:

"A disease which kills date palm trees, on which thousands of people depend for a living, has returned to Hadhramaut Governorate in southern Yemen."

"In the past the disease ravaged date palms............leaving dozens of trees dead and spoiling the date crop for the following three years. 'In 2005, 2006 and 2007 the date crop was severely damaged by dubas and consequently many people in my village went bankrupt,' ....."

"Ommatissus binotatus lybicus De Berg, or date palm dubas, is caused by an insect which absorbs the plant’s natural juices and exudes a sticky liquid, which gradually spreads and in the worst cases engulfs the whole tree, which then dies."