The recent Liwa Date Festival provided a well-attended forum for ICBA to demonstrate the success of its long-term research into elite date palm varieties to assess the impact of marginal quality irrigation on soil properties, date palm growth, productivity and fruit quality. One component of this research included the testing by ICBA of two date palm varieties (Khalas and Khenizi) with two mycorrhizae and two fertility treatments over four salinity levels of irrigated water. As date palms are often grown under saline conditions (a major concern for plant growth), the purpose of ICBA research was to determine how well mycorrhizal symbioses could enhance their survival and growth. ICBA’s research findings demonstrated that in general the symbiosis confers numerous benefits to host plants including improved plant growth and mineral nutrition, and tolerance to diseases and stresses such as drought, temperature and salinity. Date palms, possessing a coarse and limited root system, depend highly on mycorrhizae symbioses for water and nutrient uptake. The importance of these findings was acknowledged by the scientific community when ICBA received last year an award in the Research and Study Category in the Khalifa International Date Palm Awards which were established in 2008 by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to highlight the significant role of the date palm and its importance in the culture and heritage of the United Arab Emirates.
Held under the kind patronage of HH Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs, the Date Festival in Liwa in Al Gharbiya of the Abu Dhabi Emirate in the United Arab Emirates is a major drawcard for the many sectors interested in the date industry. Organized by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, the Festival attracted many dignitaries, such as HH Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Saeed Bin Tahnoon Bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, who praised the high standard of the Festival. The seven-day Festival was also attended by farmers, representatives from companies involved in date manufacturing, fertilizers, seeds, green fodder, the manufacture of high quality wood sheets from palm tree wastes suitable for use in building, furniture, and pre-fabricated houses, agricultural producers, and more than 300 UAE local families participating in the activities of the popular souk. Various competitions held during the seven day festival demonstrated the high standard of date production, which is of economic and cultural significance to the UAE.
More than 225 date producers participated in the Festival’s main date competition, the Al ‘Dabbas’ Category, which represents half the date production in the Al Gharbiya region, while 72 producers participated in the ‘Biggest Adj’ Competition. By bringing together date producers, the Festival is able to demonstrate the latest advanced agricultural techniques in fruit production and reward leading date producers.
Tourists were enthralled with the extensive display of Emirati cultural heritage with ancient houses and their contents set up in a real-life context, musical shows including the Abu Dhabi Police Music Band and the narration of historical stories. The popular souk comprised 160 shops selling locally produced date fruits, traditional clothes and jewelry as well as innovative items handcrafted from palm tree leaves and fronds by Emirati local families. Many tourists enjoyed the fact that in many shops Emirati women demonstrated skillfully how the handicrafts were made.