Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is a fruit tree, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Due to their delicious taste and high nutrients, date fruits have gained popularity. The fresh fruit varieties thrive well in Thailand. The growing domestic and international demands for fresh dates make date palm a new economic crop in Thailand. Currently, most date trees grown in Thailand are imported. To support growers in Thailand, BIOTEC-NSTDA and P Solution Company Limited formed a collaborative project to develop mass propagation technology for date palms, with financial support from ITAP-NSTDA.

Seed propagation is not a proper method of date palm propagation for multiple reasons. Date palm is a dioecious species and consequently half of the progeny will be males and half will be females, but only female plants bear fruits. In addition, because date palms are heterozygous, seed propagation will not give true-to-type plants.

Research team of BIOTEC-NSTDA, led by Dr. Yeetoh Dabbhadatta, has developed a mass propagation technique for date palm using a combination of tissue culture and bioreactor system. Shoot tips and young leaves of female mother trees carefully selected based on proven health and variety characteristics were grown in a medium to induce calluses. This process took around 1-2 years. With a more efficient bioreactor system using liquid media, Dr. Yeetoh expects that it will take another 6 months to reach the plantlet stage and her current batch should produce more than 1,000 plants by early next year.

This technology will enable the domestic production of date palm plants, resulting in cheaper plants for growers. The project demonstrates the application of advanced technology to improve the production of economic crop, helping farmers and growers by reducing production cost. It is an example of Bio-Circular-Green Economy (BCG) model that has been declared a national agenda.