|Authors: ||D.V. Johnson, D.R. Hodel|
A study was carried out to identify past and present commercial date varieties in the United States.
The date industry began in the 1890s with the first importation of named variety offshoots from North Africa and the Middle East.
From 1890 to 1929, the U.S. Department of Agriculture imported 1,076 lots of date offshoots containing about 20,000 individuals of standard date varieties.
Other introductions were made by private growers.
Medjool was one of the last varieties to be introduced, in 1927. Imported offshoots were grown primarily in Arizona and California.
Commercial production commenced in 1912 with the first harvesting and marketing of Deglet Noor fruits.
California emerged as the major producing state owing to more favorable climatic conditions.
In 1950, Nixon described 160 imported date varieties in the United States.
The current study found only 16 imported commercial varieties, originating from four countries: Algeria, Egypt, Iraq and Morocco.
Most prominent are Barhee, Deglet Noor, Halawy, Khadrawy, Medjool, Thoory and Zahidi.
In 1955 Nixon also described 40 American varieties that had been selected and reproduced from the imported varieties; since that time a few more American varieties have been added.
On a small scale, nine American varieties currently are grown commercially, the three most important are Empress and Honey, both derived from Thoory; and Blond Beauty, derived from Deglet Noor.
Date palm germplasm is preserved in four collections, two in California and two in Arizona; together they include nearly all of the current imported commercial varieties, but are inadequate for the American commercial varieties.
Date production in 2003 amounted to 16,662 mt on a total of 2,145 ha.
Deglet Noor is the most important commercial date variety, representing about 70-75% of production; Medjool is second with 20-25%; all other commercial varieties account for only a few percent of total production.
From a broad base of a total of about 200 imported and American varieties, the United States date industry is now narrowly focused on two primary and 23 secondary commercial varieties.
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