Minute bugs have left dates from 15 percent of Saudi Arabia's 12 million palm trees inedible, the agriculture ministry said Monday, warning that the situation was expected to worsen next season.
Farmers have been unable to detect the tiny insects and act to control the pest within a reasonable time, the English-language Arab News said, adding that Riyadh, with four million palms, was the worst hit area in the desert kingdom.
The ministry recommended a comprehensive programme to control the bugs that includes removal of dry parts, balanced fertilisation, suitable irrigation and optimum use of pesticides.
But it added that the "situation was expected to become worse next season due to improper application of pesticides, which also destroy the natural killers of the pest."
The oil-rich kingdom produces around 650,000 tonnes of dates a year from 107,000 hectares (264,000 acres) of palm trees, the fourth largest area under palms in the world, according to ministry figures published in January. – (AFP)
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