Dates Production

Diversity and Nutritional Variation in Pakistani Dates: Implications for Sustainable Value Chain and Decent Living Perspectives of Rural Households

Project Leader: Prof. Dr. Andreas Buerkert, Prof. Dr. Iqrar A. Khan
Doctoral Student: Ghayoor Fatima
Duration: 2012-2015
Financing: ICDD

Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) is one of the major fruit crops of Pakistan along with mango (Mangifera indica L.) and citrus. Pakistan is one of the biggest exporters of dates on the international market, but little is known about the production conditions in rural areas, the diversity of date palm populations, the nutritional properties of different date varieties and how the latter could be used to increase their market value along the value chain (e.g. targeted markets, specific storage conditions). Dates are an important source of energy, vitamins, and elements like phosphorus, iron, potassium, as well as a significant amount of calcium. However the socio-economic condition of date palm areas is often fragile with high incidence of food insecurity and a low Human Development Index. People living in these often agroecologically marginal rural areas have limited livelihood options – except for subsistence farming amended by minor sources of off-farm income. However very limited work has been conducted to analyze the socio-economic role of date palm cultivation in relation to species diversity and the linkages of date palm diversity, differences in date nutritional properties and marketing opportunities of this diversity-related properties.

In order to fill this gap of knowledge surveys will be conducted in representative date palm areas of the province of Punjab (Districts Jhang, Muzafargarh and Bahawalpur), the province of Sindh (District Kheirpur), the Province of KPK (District Dera Ismail Khan) and in Baluchistan. In each of 10 locations (villages) per district 20 households involved in date production will be interviewed about the subsistence and sales role date production plays for their livelihoods, about date yields, perceived quality traits, retail prices and major problems. To examine possible effects of soil chemical and physical properties on date quality the surface soil (0-20 cm) of each location from which dates are collected will be subject to a detailed characterization. Following the interviews at each location 10 surveyed households will be used for the collection of date germplasm. These will be analysed morphologically using the descriptors proposed by the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute IPGRI. All date samples will be analysed for total soluble solids or sugar (TSS) with a refractometer, for vitamin C, Ca and Mg, for fruit acids determined by titration, and for fruit firmness with a penetrometer. Data will be analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) vs. 18 for multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA). The selected descriptor measurements of the cultivars will be subjected to a principal component analysis (PCA) to determine the characteristics with greater contributions to total variability.