Date palms belong to the family Palmaceae, are native to the Persian Gulf and grow in arid and subtropical regions. The main producing countries worldwide are Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq and Algeria (source: FAO). Its fruit, the date, forms clusters of up to 25 kg of ripe fruit and takes several months to develop. It has an oval shape, and it is smooth with a long, grooved seed. In many countries, the bunches of fruit are covered with paper bags to protect them from the elements (rain, dust) and rodents.
Date palms tolerate great climatic differences, the optimum temperature for development is 30ºC, although they can withstand ranges between 8 and 45ºC. It is important from a commercial point of view that humidity be kept low during the ripening and harvesting periods as this could cause problems for most varieties.
The date palm thrives in almost any type of soil, but is particularly well suited to well-drained sandy loams, with high drought resistance and maximum resistance to salinity. The date grows in almost any type of soil: light, medium and heavy with good drainage and ventilation. The date is resistant to drought and alkaline soils. When saline water is used for irrigation, there is a drop in yield and quality.
The planting distance varies depending on the variety. Planting frames measuring 10 x 10 m and densities of approximately 100 trees per hectare are most common. In small palm groves the density is about 200 trees per hectare.
Most modern date plantations are irrigated with drip irrigation systems, although many traditional plantations are still furrow or flood irrigated. Dates must have a continuous supply of water, and in some regions they are watered up to twice a day. Irrigation is the biggest cost in a palm plantation, as the roots must have a constant supply of moisture.