Date fruit growers David Kohl of Thermal, Calif. and Moshe Kirat of Moshi Hatzeva, Israel farm nearly 7,000 miles apart. Yet an international exchange of ideas between the producers is leading to improved irrigation strategies to conserve water while increasing higher yields and fruit quality.

In late February, Kohl, plus Moshe and his wife Smadar, joined together at the Kohl family’s La Quinta Date Farm in Thermal, Calif. (Riverside County) to discuss and implement new irrigation strategies recommended by the Israeli producers.

La Quinta Date Farm is a 730-acre organic date operation producing the Medjool, Deglet Noor, and Zahidi varieties. The Kohl family – David and his father Allen - started the operation in 2002 and plan to expand the operation to 1,000 acres by 2017.

Kirat has farmed in Israel’s Aravah Valley since 1966. The Israeli grower added dates to the crop mix in 1990. Other crops include vegetables, mangos, and flowers.

Kohl is open to new ideas in date production, including those from his new Israeli friends.

“I don’t have any ingrained beliefs on how to farm dates,” Kohl says. “We want to do it the most efficient way possible. We are very open minded.”

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The Kohl’s this year hired Kirat as a consultant to help them improve date production on the La Quinta farm, including better water utilization per acre. Kohl believes maximum water efficiency is critical to the future of the operation and profitability.

The farm’s new irrigation plan will shift to 100-percent surface drip, practiced and advocated by the Kirat family. La Quinta farm is currently a 50-50 split with newer acres in drip and the older trees under flood irrigation.

Kohl says, “Drip irrigation is a much more efficient way to water date trees.”

Date palm growing conditions are almost identical in Israel and the California-Arizona area. Both regions feature arid climates with about three inches of rainfall annually and extreme hot summer temperatures.