The 92nd RIHN seminar

Date: 25 September 2013 (Wed.)
Time: 12:15 –13:15
Place: Seminar room 1 & 2, RIHN ( → Access)
Title: Molecular Identification and genetic diversity of date palm (/Phoenix dactylifera/ L.) cultivars at InBelbel and Matriouen In Algerian Sahara
Speaker: Mr. Abderrahmane BENKHALIFA (Assistant Professor, Ecole Normale Superieure, Kouba)
(Visiting Research Fellows, RIHN project "A Study of Human Subsistence Ecosystems in Arab Societies: To Combat Livelihood Degradation for the Post-Oil Era")


From 2009-2013, several visits were executed in Algerian Sahara by mixed team RIHN (Kyoto)-CNDRRB (Algiers) as continuous observations of oasis evolution of InBelbel and Matriouen oases. We highlight the remarkable impact on the mobilization of Algerian team to be involved in the strategy to identify, characterize and conserve key species for all fauna and flora in the Tademait region.

To describe date-palm diversity, we carried out an inventory of 46 cultivars anciently or recently introduced. Six are notified as lost. 8 cultivars never been listed anywhere are probably selected locally and can be considered as endemic.5 cultivars are abundant, 4 are frequent and all of 31 are rare. Except of lost ones, 40 cultivars were described in order to document their origin, frequency, harvest period, quality, and their ability to be conserved or used fresh. Fruit samples were taken many times during several seasons in order to characterize 22 available productive varieties. This showed a good size and best shape of abundant varieties, an acceptable quality of the best Algerian commercial variety but with dry consistence. 5 varieties register more than 10g/fruit, and high fruit weight is 17.63 g/date. 5 early cultivars never before regrouped in the same oasis shows the impact of InBelbel-Mtriouen’s localization in the middle between other regions. The endemic varieties have a good taste for certain, high weight and a good shape for others. But often they were stayed as abandoned without irrigation, and need now to be rehabilitated. A participatory action with local peoples was initiated and will focus on this goal as one of main outputs of our study.

The molecular assessment using specific date-palm microsatellites describes successfully the diversity of DNA of dry leaves. They are useful to distinguish easily the DNA profile of each cultivar. Our results show that ones are conform so they have a same patterns, however others are polymorphic, because their rarity and dispersion which causes the non consensus of farmers in their identification without difficulties.

The classification essay shows that only one cultivar is isolated totally. 3 others cultivars are linked and form a sub-group. All others are so linked and regrouped due to their related genetic relation.The introduction of witness cultivars from whose are abandoned ones in far west and east regions in Algeria shows that the cultivar ‘Ghars’ is more linked with inventoried diversity. However Daglat-Noor and Bufaggus are out group. The history of date palm introduction in Tidikelt is probably linked to the consumption of Ghars dates.

Microsatellites are universally useful to identify the conformity of the genetic material and can be used to study relationship between varieties and propose hierarchical classifications helping us to know how to manage date-palm diversity. It remains the exploration of male date palms and other females selected locally without distinguished names. The more best result consist of highlighting how can farmers manage their local biodiversity, to rehabilitate endemic and ancient rare cultivars, and also to lunch the creation of new varieties from what farmers are selecting. The notion of cultivars as genetic units to measure biodiversity is true for date palm, but in field identification of samples we need more attention and the consensus of experimented farmers only.

Curriculum Vitae (Summary):

Abderrahmane BENKHALIFA borns in Timimoun in the Algerian Sahara. His actual position is a Lecturer of Biology and Ecology in the Ecole Normale Superieure at Algiers (Algeria). He is involved in Date palm characterization since 1983 with the Arid land research Laboratory at The University of Algiers and The commissariat of development of agriculture in Saharian region. He was behind the edition of Algerian Date palm Inventory Catalogue in 1989 – reprinted in 2006, where 943 cultivars are listed. He also initiated the date palm molecular characterization in the CIRAD at Montpellier in France (1993-1996).

2001-2003 he occupied the National coordinator position to execute the UNDP-GEF Maghreb Date palm project. This project edited in 2005 the collaborative Date Palm Descriptors List under the International Plant Genetic Resources Institutes (ex IPGRI coming now Biodiversity International).

From 2008-2013 his current position as Adviser in the Centre National de Developpement des Ressources Biologiques (CNDRB) he initiate the creation of the Bulletin des Ressources biologiques (BRB) and he is involved in the creation of new protected areas in Algeria – Laguermi (El-Baydh) ; Moudjebara (Djelfa) and Tinerkouk (Adrar). He coordinates the national data base of biological resources (

From 2009-2013 he joined the RIHN project devoted to the study of subsistence ecosystems in Arab societies. The memorandum established between the RIHN and the CNDRB permitted to complete deeply date palm characterization at InBelbel and Matriouen oasis and also created new dynamic field study. Algerian team adopts more participatory approaches in the study of Biodiversity in Tademaït region. Now some practical actions are done to preserve endangered species like Gazella; Barbary sheep; Acacia tress; Balanites and Maerua. Actually he compiled 1165 date palm cultivars from Algerian oasis.

ISHIYAMA Shun (Project Researcher, RIHN)
Research Institute for Humanity and Nature
457-4 Motoyama, Kamigamo, Kita-ku, Kyoto, 603-8047, Japan
Phone : +81-75-707-2415v Fax : +81-75-707-2509