Project info

Application of organic bio-fertilizer technology to improve the sustainability of date palm production and cultivation – fertiledatepalm

Funding: Swiss Programme for Research on global Issues for Development, a partnership of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

Project coordinator: Dr. Sarah Symanczik, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, Switzerland


  • Prof. Rachid Bouamri and collaborators, National School of Agriculture of Meknes, Morocco
  • Prof. Hafidi and collaborators, Cadi Ayyad University, Morocco
  • Prof. El Hassan El Achbani, National Institute of Agricultural Research, Morocco
  • Dr. Lotfi Fki, Faculty of Sciences of Sfax, Tunisia
  • Prof. Ahmed Mliki, Center of Biotechnology of Borj Cédria, Tunisia

Duration: 2016-2019

Fertiledatepalm project flyer

About the project

Date palm is an important crop in Morocco, Tunisia and many other dryland ecosystems with a high agricultural, economic and cultural value. The prevailing harsh environmental conditions, which are further accelerated by climate change and the spread of root diseases, are threatening date palm propagation and cultivation. To overcome growth limitations, current date palm cultivation regularly involves high inputs of mineral fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation. However, these external inputs strongly impact the environment and the livelihoods of farmers, are cost-intensive, not resilient and thus not sustainable.

The project aims at establishing a novel organic bio-fertilizer technology, combining the application of native beneficial soil microorganisms during tissue culture and field propagation of date palms, together with adapted agricultural management practices using organic amendments and intercropping with leguminous nitrogen-fixing crops. As bio-fertilizers, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) are in focus. A culture collection of native AMF and PGPR, isolated from date palm roots and rhizosphere, will be established, and strains selected for date palm growth promotion, nutrient acquisition and pathogen suppression will subsequently be used as bio-fertilizers. Customized propagation and application techniques of bio-fertilizers will be elaborated such as modern in-vitro methods suitable for tissue culture laboratories and low-tech approaches for smallholder farmers. The technology will be developed in a participatory approach, working at laboratory, on-station and on-farm scale. As part of an innovation platform, aims and problems of date palm producers (tissue culture laboratories, smallholder farmers and farmers’ organisations) will be targeted in order to align them with the research process. Gained knowledge on technical and methodological innovations will be disseminated to a broader circle of stakeholders including regional and national agricultural agencies in order to influence their operational procedures.

The proposed organic bio-fertilizer technology will contribute to more sustainable, resilient agriculture, safeguarding natural resources. It will help maintain and increase date palm production, and counteract the ongoing land degradation and desertification of dryland soils. It is anticipated that the knowledge gained in this project in Morocco and Tunisia can be transferred to other areas where date palm represents a major crop.