Bulletin 21 - November 1983: Plant Nurseries in Abu Dhabi
Plant Nurseries in Abu Dhabiby M.I.R. Khan
The raising and maintenance of plant nurseries in Abu Dhabi is a recent activity which started in the late sixties to provide plants and seedlings for the plantation and afforestation projects which were started about the same time on the initiative and under the directives of H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Ruler of Abu Dhabi. Since then, with the expansion of plantation, agricultural and landscaping projects, the raising of various types of nurseries has made considerable progress in both public and private sectors. More recently, indoor decorative plants are being acquired and kept by an increasing number of people in their offices, shops, business premises, and residential buildings.
The great variety of plants found in Abu Dhabi today are either raised locally or imported from abroad. These latter which are mostly ornamental or fruit plants come from Holland, Belgium, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Pakistan, India, Australia and New Zealand.
The indoor ornamental plants come mostly from Holland and a very few from Belgium. There is a fair number of flower shops located in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain which import and sell indoor decorative plants and cut flowers. The cut flowers are imported mostly from Holland though some are brought in from Belgium and Beirut. Fruit plants such as Lemon, Lime and other citrus species, Fig, Olive, Pomegranate, Grapevine, Guava, Chicko, Banana, Phalsa, Graftea Ber, Mango, Jaman, Tamarind, Coconut, Palm, and Date Palm etc. have been imported mostly from Iran, Pakistan and India.
In the following pages a current account of various types of existing plant nurseries both in the public and private sectors of Abu Dhabi Emirate is recorded. The information was collected by the author himself visiting most of the nurseries in September and October 1982. The nurseries of the Western Region including Abu Dhabi, and those of the Eastern Region including AI Ain, are dealt with separately.Nurseries in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi
Plant nurseries in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi have appeared both in the public and the private sectors. In the public sector the nurseries have been raised by the Agriculture Department and the Forestry Department of the Abu Dhabi Municipality and more recently by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. An up-to-date account of these nurseries in the public sector is given in the following paragraphs:
(a) Public Sector Nurseries:
(b) Private Sector Nurseries:
The shops dealing in the import and sale of indoor decorative plants in Abu Dhabi visited by the author were:
The number of indoor decorative plants sold by these shops is estimated to be of the order of about 1.5 to 2 million plants annually.
Recently, the Abu Dhabi Municipality greenhouse nursery has also started producing indoor plants locally. They have also opened a shop to sell these plants to the public. The price of the indoor plants sold at the Municipality shop ranges between Dh 5/- to Dh 50/- per plant.Nurseries in the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi
Both climatic and soil factors are more favourable for plant growth in the Eastern region of Abu Dhabi. Al Ain is a part of the historic Buraimi oasis which has been cultivated since time immemorial. There is considerable scope for the development of agriculture here and in adjoining areas.
Plant nurseries for raising forest tree plants, fruit plants and vegetables seedlings have also grown in both public and private sectors. A brief account of most of these nurseries is given in the following paragraphs.
(a) Public Sector Nurseries:
During 1979, 16,610 kg of seeds and 55,554 vegetable seedlings and in 1980, 37,500 kg of seeds and 147,906 vegetable seedlings were distributed free amongst the farmers in the Eastern Region by the Al Ain Agriculture Department.
(b) Private Sector Nurseries:
The above are the licensed private nursery companies working in Al Ain. In addition there are also some small private nursery units which sell their plants to licensed nursery companies. It would be seen that the private nurseries in Al Ain put together are producing about 1.5 to 2 million plants annually.
Some Aspects of Nursery Businesses
Some important matters about the plant nurseries business in Abu Dhabi are briefly discussed below:
(a) Propagation of the Date Palm: The date palm has separate male and female plants. It is not propagated from seed but from root suckers produced by the mother plants around the base of their stems. As such there are no specific date palm nurseries. The root suckers are detached from the mother plants and then taken to the new planting site.
The date palm is the most important fruit plant of Abu Dhabi Emirate and there is a great demand for root suckers of suitable varieties. The freshly cut root suckers are sometimes stored in holding nurseries. The date palm root suckers are also imported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Oman and Pakistan.
(b) Local Nursery Techniques: A number of variable nursery techniques are being followed to raise nursery plants locally in Abu Dhabi. A large number of plants are being raised from seed. Hard-coated seeds like that of 'Ghaf' (Prosopis spicigera) , 'Samar' (Acacia tortilis) , and 'Qarat' (Acacia arabica) are pretreated by being soaked in hot water for 24 to 48 hours to soften their coats. The seeds may be sown directly in plant containers or may first be sown in trough-shaped receptacles and from them a week or two old seedlings like those of Eucalyptus and Casuarina are then transferred to individual plant containers. Some plants are propagated vegetatively from root suckers, cuttings, branches etc. such as the Date Palm, Oleander (Nerium odoratum) and Clerodendron etc. Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) is propagated from its stubbles or rhizomes.
Planting is generally started in polythene bags, plastic containers or sometimes in soil beds. The containers and soil beds may be level with the ground or they may be in the form of shallow pits. The soil medium in the containers and beds consists of soil, sweet sand and organic manure mixed together in suitable proportions. Sometimes a light dose of compound fertilizer is added to the mixture.
Irrigation is carried out by sprinklers or, if the water is brackish,. by flooding in shallow sunken beds with hoses. Chemical fertilizers are generally applied with water, and leaf fertilizers are sometimes sprayed onto young foliage.
In order to avoid heat and cold injuries to plants, the nursery beds are provided with overhead shade of different materials allowing various intensities of sun light to penetrate. Sometimes sensitive plants are raised in green houses under controlled environmental conditions. Protective sprays with insecticides and, fungicides are also carried out in most of the nurseries.
Mature nursery plants raised in containers are at intervals lifted, moved and their roots pruned. This is invariably done a week or two before they are taken out for transplanting in the field. In order to produce large sized transplants, young seedlings are sometime transferred to large sized containers wherein they can further expand.
Temporary holding nurseries are occasionally set up at the planting sites. Selected plants are kept in the holding nurseries for a few weeks till they are actually planted in the field.
(c) Cost of Plant Production: The cost of production of locally raised nursery plants consists of land rent including the cost of irrigation water generally taken out from tube wells plus the cost of fertilizers, insecticides, labour and overheads which can be very variable.
The cost of producing forest tree seedlings in the private nurseries in Al Ain varies from Dh 0.5 to Dh 1.0 per plant. The cost price of these seedlings in the public sector nurseries can be more than double these figures. Overhead charges in public sector nurseries are much higher.
Imported plants cost considerably more and are much more expensive to buy. Those imported by land from Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan and by sea from Iran, Pakistan and India are comparatively less expensive.
(d) Plant Nursery Law: In Abu Dhabi plant nurseries are at present established after taking out licences from the Municipalities. Realizing that the business of plant nurseries is not adequately regulated, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Resources has decided to promulgate a plant nursery law in the UAE.
After the issue of the proposed nursery law, all nursery operators will have to take out a license from the Ministry of Agriculture and carry out their nursery business in accordance with the provisions of this law which will protect plant resources and curb diseases and pests.
Any violations of the law will be punishable by heavy fines. This should result in the elimination of some unscrupulous and incompetent nursery operators which now exist.
(e) Export of Plants from Abu Dhabi: Some nursery plants have been exported from Abu Dhabi to Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. One Italian Agricultural Company, Messrs. Piante Marcelle have in the past exported some shade and ornamental plants from Abu Dhabi to Saudi Arabia but there appears to be no regular trade at present for the export of plants from Abu Dhabi to adjoining countries.
In order to exclude the import of any soil-borne diseases and pests, no foreign soil from outside the Arabian peninsula is allowed to be imported into Saudi Arabia with the roots of plants. However, plants with soil from the UAE would be permitted to enter Saudi Arabia. Thus an export trade for the export of suitable plants from Abu Dhabi to ecologically similar adjoining countries, especially Saudi Arabia, could be developed.
(f) Future scope of the Nursery Business: In spite of severe competition in the nursery business in the UAE, there would appear to be a reasonable scope in certain aspects of plant production and marketing. Some of these aspects, as envisaged by the author, are briefly discussed below:
Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan
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