Dates in Egypt
The date palm is one of the oldest crops cultivated by man – archaeologists have found evidence of its production 8,000 years ago in Neolithic sites in Syria and Egypt, and its prominence in Middle Eastern culture is still widely felt. Egypt is the largest date-producing country in the world and nearly all of these dates are consumed by Egyptians themselves. After thousands of years, Egypt continues to be a central hub for date production, but date groves are susceptible to devastating damage by weevils.
Halim Kashaba, a 66-year-old date farmer, has roughly 700 of what he calls his “beloved” palm trees. “When I started planting my trees, it was very personal. It is like having kids,” he says. But his trees are threatened by the red palm weevil, a deadly pest that can destroy a palm in a matter of weeks by eating into the core of the tree. “You can listen and hear the sound of the weevil munching!” he says. “When I discover the pest, I can’t sleep until I’m sure it has been treated.”
“Early detection of the pest is essential,” says Dr. Mohamed Kamal Abbas, who specializes in the red palm weevil for Egypt’s Plant Protection Research Institute. “Once we find out where the infestation entry point is, we clean the area, dig a small hole, and insert an insecticide.” Mohamed has been developing effective pest management methods for more than 20 years. “In the lab, we evaluate the pesticides before farmers start the application. I feel so proud when we discover a new method so that farmers can prevent their trees from dying,” he says.