Using an embryonic pause to save the date

07 July, 2019

​Dates are one of the most significant fruit crops grown in the Middle East; however, little is known about how these resilient palm trees flourish in the high temperatures of desert habitats. Now, KAUST researchers have shown that date palms, after germination, can pause their early development within womb-like root structures in the soil, ready to grow when the environmental conditions are just right.

“Date palms are of huge importance to desert agriculture, especially in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where they are considered as a symbol of vitality and prosperity,” says Ting Ting Xiao, who worked on the study with an international project team, under the supervision of KAUST’s Ikram Blilou. “Dates are known for their medicinal and nutritional values. In Europe, they are considered a delicacy, while in the desert they are a promising sustainable food source.”

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Image: Date palms employ remote germination to protect their meristems from the surrounding hostile desert environment.
2019 Vinicius Lube