A partnership to support the date industry
UC Riverside Professor of Entomology Thomas Perring collaborated with Ali Montazar, Cooperative Extension Irrigation and Water Management Advisor, to understand the water needs of date palms as a means of reducing skin separation in their fruit.
“When the skin separates, it makes the fruit worth about a quarter of the value, so it’s a huge economic problem for the date industry,” said Perring. His research team had determined that amounts of water at certain times of the fruit ripening process could either lead to or reduce skin separation, but they didn’t know how much water dates really need. “Ali came in and started a project in which he constructed huge towers so he could look at the water balance of trees and the evaporation from trees, the solar radiation that’s coming down on them and all these environmental parameters that impact how much water a date palm needs. We didn’t have that! So that’s been really critical.”
Montazar had reached out to Perring just a few months after joining UC ANR. Perring introduced him to a colleague from the USDA and connected him with growers, and from there they began working on the date problem. They also have participated in field days and workshops together and bring in professors and their graduate students to present on their research projects.
“Since I came to this position, I have started several projects, so in some of those projects AES academics are part of my project; for some others, I’m part of their project,” said Montazar. “We need each other is what I’m thinking, because the resources each of us have are different, the capabilities we have are different, the connections we have are different.”
Another benefit of collaborating has been putting together resources to complete the work. “The six (flux density measurement) towers cost about $100k and we were funded by CDFA, so thankfully we have the tools and equipment and can continue this work,” said Montazar.
Auxiliary irrigation system used to create different irrigation treatments in grower's field
Date harvest in skin separation project during which dates are harvested, weighed, and scored for percent skin separation
Watch a short video about the collaboration
Montazar actively supports graduate students from UC Riverside and UC Davis by introducing them to Imperial Valley growers, loaning them tools and working directly with them. He feels it is essential to expose them to the “real world” of agriculture, where they can work on concrete problems. He is committed to providing real-world scenarios for research based on grower input, such as providing grower data to assist UC Riverside academics with data modeling.
Both Perring and Montazar tout the impact and value of collaborating as essential to carrying out the university’s mission. “That’s why we need each other – we can’t complete research and also extension alone,” said Montazar.