A molecular toolbox for efficient date palm breeding

Dates are a culturally and economically significant commodity, both locally and regionally. The overall goal of the CDA’s fit date palm project is to gain a basic understanding of the genome biology, physiology and development of date palm that can be used to breed new varieties that will outperform existing varieties (i.e., higher yields with fewer inputs), while maintaining superior quality.

Generating molecular and biotechnological tools for date palm provides the first step toward understanding and improving the mechanisms of adaptation to desert conditions. Establishing palms from a homogenous tissue culture to maintain pure lines will allow the preservation and improvement of local cultivars. This project builds multiple tools that will enable the establishment of robust date palm breeding programs in the KSA. This includes

  1. Stable transformation protocol
  2. Reducing the generation time
  3. Obtaining and analyzing high-quality genomic information
  4. Developing methods for rapid sex determination

These are the first steps toward establishing date palm breeding in the KSA, to develop fast, fit palms. Furthermore, knowledge from date palm can be transferred to other crops, which will also contribute to improving desert agriculture.

The Fast Fit Palms project is led by Professor Ikram Blilou.


Fit Palm field sites are currently located in 1)  Historical farm of Al-Dabeta, Al Madinah, 2)  Al Hasa Oasis, Eastern Province, 3) Undecided location in Southern KSA


date palm project