FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said the country’s date palm oases were an official candidate for the next round of Globally Important Agriculture Heritage System (GIHAS) classifications, while speaking at the Khalifa International Date Palm Award Ceremony in Abu Dhabi last week. The oases at Liwa and Al Ain are the specific candidates to receive GIHAS classification.
Culture, history, technology
“Recovering and valuing local crops such as date palms is an important strategy in the pursuit of food security. Such crops not only provide food and income, but are part of the culture and history of many peoples,” said Graziano da Silva.
“In preserving date palms and adapting their production to today’s and tomorrow’s constraints, you are building a sustainable, food secure future without losing your heritage,” he added.
DNA sequencing projects won many of the Khalifa awards, with both technology awards and the first place research or study award going to genetic research efforts at King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia, and UAE University and New York University in Abu Dhabi. UAE University also won first prize in the producers’ category.
Genetic analysis project
Sequencing the genomes of date palms is a major project for UAE date producers at the moment. Also this month, the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water (MOEW) announced it had completed the first phase of its date palm identification project, which has seen it collect 55 samples from three different research stations, which will all be sequenced in the project’s second phase, in partnership with UAE University.
"The UAE is one of the largest producers of dates in the world. It has around 160 species of dates across the UAE. In line with our commitment to protect palm trees and dates production, it is important to offer all kinds of support to preserve, identify and classify all genetic assets of date palm trees,” said Saif Al-Shara, assistant under-secretary for agricultural and livestock affairs at MOEW.
“It is also important for us to establish a reference database for all the types of palm trees found in the UAE, as well as identify and document the extent of their diversity. DNA profiling is recognised as one of the most accurate techniques to ensure genetic stability of plants. It is also one of the internationally recognised means to determine genetic kinship with all other living organisms,” he added.