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Improving Date Palm Harvests

Protecting date palm trees from red palm weevils through early detection
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Project Description


Date Palms

Principal Investigator

Boon S. Ooi


Palm trees used for date agriculture are often attacked by pests like red palm weevils. Red palm weevils can kill trees that take up to 15 years to grow and destroy farms in mere months. Weevils are hard to detect, and current methods are unreliable, costly to scale and damage trees, inviting other pests to nest in the trees.
Saudi Arabia is a world leader in palm date production, generating about $2 billion in sales in 2021 and plans to grow sales to $2.5 billion by 2030. Reliable, cost-effective control of red palm weevils will help protect crop yields to grow the industry.
Innovative KAUST research has created a red palm weevil detection system using optical fiber and acoustic sensors. This system reliably detects weevils early at just 12 days old. This allows growers to act to protect their trees before losses. The detection system is cost effective and readily scalable to large plantations.
Following successful testing at the Palms and Dates Center of Al-Ahsa, a new project is being developed at NEOM. This three-year project is designed to improve sensor reliability in harsh environments. The goal is to develop a low-cost, turnkey solution to detect date palm destroying bugs like the red palm weevil.