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International Expert Hails Khalifa International Award For Date Palm And Agricultural Innovation

The Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation organised recently a virtual lecture, presenting "Red palm weevil: past, present and future," by Dr. Jose Romeno Faleiro, International Advisor.

The lecture was attended by 63 participants, representing 13 countries, among which are members of the Date Palm Friends Society in the UAE, date palm farmers, and Agricultural experts.

This virtual lecture held via Zoom, comes under the directives of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, President of the Award’s Board of Trustees, and within the Award’s framework and commitment to spreading the scientific knowledge and awareness on the date palm best practices, and providing technical and scientific advice and support to farmers to help them improve the Dates quality.

Dr. Abdelouahhab Zaid, the Award’s Secretary-General, expressed his appreciation to the extended scientific and professional efforts made by Dr. Jose Romeno Faleiro, a Date Palm cultivation expert and specialist in the Red Palm Weevil.

During the lecture, Dr. Faleiro said that the Red Palm Weevil has its home in South and South-East Asia where it has been a major pest of coconut and has emerged as a key pest of palms in diverse agro-ecosystems worldwide. RPW gained a foothold on date palm in the Middle East during the mid-1980s and has since spread rapidly throughout the world mainly through infested planting material transported for ornamental gardening or farming.

He added that RPW has rapidly expanded its geographical range during the last three decades and recent reports of RPW invasion suggest that the pest is establishing in the Caucasian region where it is detected in Abkhazia on the canary island palm in the republic of Georgia and also from East Africa in Djibouti on a date palm. During 2019, RPW was detected in Bulgaria in the Black Sea Basin region and also in Bosnia-Herzegovina in Southeastern Europe. Currently, the pest is being reported from nearly 50 countries. "New reports of the pest are often linked to the organising of major international events that require large scale planting of landscape palms," he pointed out.

He indicated that during March 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN organised a ‘Scientific and High-Level Meeting on the Management of RPW’ and through the ‘Rome Declaration’ called for the urgent need to combat RPW by collaborative efforts and commitments at the country, regional and global levels to stop the spread of this devastating pest. "A framework strategy formulated for the eradication of RPW at the Rome meeting aims to support national programmes to control RPW," Dr. Faleiro added.

Dr. Faleiro also highlighted the fact that the core of the control strategy revolves around regular inspection to detect infested palms, trapping of adult weevils, preventive and curative chemical treatments, and removal of severely infested palms and periodic validation of the control programme. "Supporting these components is the implementation of strict quarantine regimes to ensure the movement of RPW free planting material along with the adoption of good agricultural practices including the adoption of optimum spacing between palms, prevention of wounds on the palm and immediate treatment of injuries due to frond and offshoot removal along with the lowering of in-groove humidity by optimising irrigation techniques and preventing irrigation water from coming in contact with the collar region of the trunk," he said, adding that capacity building of all stakeholders coupled with intensive extension programmes through the electronic and print media is also a part of the strategy to combat RPW.

Dr. Faleiro then referred to the existing gaps and challenges in almost all the components of the current RPW-IPM strategy. "Although there are several research publications and ongoing research programmes on RPW in many countries, there is an urgent need to further intensify RPW research to develop user-friendly technologies with respect to early detection, phytosanitary measures, semi-chemical techniques, preventive and curative treatments, biological control, removal of severely infested palms and data collection for efficient decision-making that will foster farmer/homestead owner participation in the management of this deadly pest," he noted.

At the end of his lecture, Dr. Jose Faleiro highlighted the great role played by the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation in supporting and developing the date palm cultivation sector and the date production worldwide, especially the great effort in organising the agriculture ministers conference of the date producing countries to develop a framework strategy for the eradication of the red palm weevil, on the 9th of March, 2019. The conference resulted in launching the Abu Dhabi Declaration and the establishment of the Red Palm Weevil Eradication Fund under the supervision of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, FAO.

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