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Kerman Palm Groves Hit by Cicada Pest
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Kerman Palm Groves Hit by Cicada Pest

With only a few days remaining till the end of the pollination season of palm groves, pest outbreak and lack of funds to fight cicada insects are said to have caused infertility in 90% of palm trees in the southeast province of Kerman.
Despite its negligible size, cicada is a survivor insect switching generations every few years. As a result of the constant transition, cicadas are gaining immunity to pesticides.
Kerman, which is famous for its Bam dates, hosts the biggest range of palm groves in Iran and is the second largest producer of dates; it is now under the attack of cicadas. Over the years, the insect migrated to Kerman from neighboring towns; however, no action has been taken to eliminate the pest.
After aerial spraying of pesticide was halted in the last years of the previous administration, pest outbreaks on palm groves in Kerman became rampant. This year, even if any action is to be taken, it can happen only after the end of the pollination season.
 Biggest Producer  
Iran is one of the largest producers of dates in the world. Its annual production is close to one million tons in over 400 varieties grown in the whole of southern Iran – from the west to the east. Iranian dates as a rule are grown, harvested and processed organically without using any chemical fertilizers, pesticides or preservatives. In fact, Iranian growers have not adapted to chemical use, say some experts.
All 400 varieties of Iranian dates are not exportable due to limited production of some types, or being unsuitable for export. But among the 400 there are more than 15 varieties well known in international markets, and are exported. These include soft, semi-soft and dry types, or ‘Mozafati,’ famously known as Bam Dates, unique to Iran and grown in Kerman Province only. This variety is not found in other date producing countries.
Date harvesting, depending on the variety, starts form August and lasts till the end of October every year.
Production of dates is the most important occupation, providing livelihood to thousands of families in Kerman Province and other eastern towns. In the last months of the previous calendar year (ended March 20) a bill was approved to allocate 40 billion rials to the governor of Kerman for purchasing pesticides; however, the amount has not been received due to financial constraints.  
First Vice-President Es’haq Jahangiri forwarded the bill to the ministry of economic affairs and finance, and the Management and Planning Organization in January this year, Mehr news reports. “We understand the hazardous risks of pesticides on the environment; nevertheless a different method should be utilized,” said Mohammad Nikfar, who heads the House of Agriculture. This year the rate of successful pollination is only 10% for palm groves in Kerman Province, he noted.

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