Dubai – MENA Herald: The UAE, which is considered a leading country in the development of palm agriculture, has both economic and sentimental value for the palm tree sector. Its support for palm tree agriculture in the past has led to the industry’s remarkable growth. With the objective to ensure sustainable palm cultivation, increase its contribution to food security, and eliminate threats such as agricultural diseases and pests. The UAE Ministry of Environment and Water has begun new phase of ‘Nakheelna’ Initiative. During the second phase, it aims to propagate disease-free date palm trees to boost their productivity as well as improve the quality of services provided to the palm cultivators in the country.

H.E. Sultan Bin Alwan Al Habsi, Assistant Undersecretary for Region sector, Ministry of Environment and Water, said: “The new phase of the ‘Nakheelna’ initiative, for which we have developed the necessary standards and technical specifications, will continue until the end of 2017. The program aims to find complete solutions for UAE farmers to help them boost the economic output of palm farming and increase date production to support the associated industries and contribute to the country’s GDP. It will not only enhance food security but will also diversify income by improving the quality of products while maintaining the UAE’s leading position in the date palm industry.”

The Assistant Undersecretary explained that during this phase, the Ministry will utilize the latest technologies to control date palm tree pests and diseases without effecting the environment by providing agricultural extension services and building capacity for farmers and other individuals working in the sector. It will also adopt using electronic services to receive registered farmers services request and complaints. Lastly, it will use an electronic job report to secure farmers’ data along with the issues reported and will respond to them within 48 hours.

H.E. Al Habsi mentioned that under the latest phase, the Ministry will develop the capabilities of technical professionals, administrators, specialists, agricultural engineers, and farmers to complete the implementation of the initiative in the second phase. It will also upgrade the tools and equipment, transportation vehicles, spraying devices, spraying water, and mobile and stationary water tanks in all regions to achieve the desired results. In addition, follow-up services will be offered along with the maintenance of lighting and pheromone traps, with one pheromone trap to be allocated for every 100 date palm trees and one lighting trap for every 500 date palm trees to be provided inclusive of full maintenance. Food and water for all traps will also be provided every 15 days and all insects gathered at least twice a month.

The Assistant Undersecretary explained that pheromones will be changed at least once a month. There will be a system to number and differentiate pheromone traps as well as take their readings using advanced equipment to ensure the accuracy of data for swift completion. The location of all traps will be placed according to GPS system that will be placed within agricultural map of the UAE.

During this phase, work will be carried out to control and manage all issues that affect the growth of date palm tree such as insect pests and diseases, especially the Red Palm Weevil, Dobas insect, Al Hamirah, and stem and stalk borers. The Ministry will use the most advanced systems, tools and equipment to detect and control these pests, and treat infected trees.

H.E. Al Habsi explained that the agricultural extension services is a major pillar in the support and development of date palm farming that aims to increase production to boost economic value and help farmers achieve sustainable quality production. This will help encourage the development of the date palm farming process, creating an advanced agricultural system based on the latest production procedures. Expert visits will be carried out to provide farmers with information and guidance about the best agricultural practices which will be explained in three languages, namely English, Arabic and Hindi. He added that the Ministry is committed to implementing high-quality service standards with the goal of reaching 80 percent of customer satisfaction by 2017.

The UAE Ministry of Environment and Water launched the ‘Nakheelna’ initiative in 2012. The ongoing second phase focuses on controlling Red Palm Weevil and all other pests that affect date palm tree agriculture on a national scale.