The dragon fruit, which is indigenous to the Americas, can mature in arid and semi-arid locations with extremely very low input cost

The dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus) is indigenous to the Americas. Its name comes from its visual appeal — leather-like pores and skin and scaly spikes on the exterior of the fruits. It is also known as ‘Pitaya’, ‘Pitahaya’, strawberry pear, noblewoman and queen of the night time throughout the earth.

The dragon fruit was introduced to home gardens in India in the 1990s. It attained broader recognition amongst farmers owing to its profitability and the fact that it desired reduced inputs at the time founded. The plant sustains produce for extra than 20 a long time, is substantial in nutraceutical homes and very good for price-extra processing industries.

The lower upkeep and large profitability of dragon fruits has attracted the farming local community throughout India. This has led to a steep increase in dragon fruit cultivation in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Gujarat and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as properly as in numerous north jap states.

A recent estimate by Indian Council of Agricultural Research-Nationwide Institute of Abiotic Stress Administration, Baramati in Maharashtra identified that dragon fruits are cultivated on 3,000-4,000 hectares in numerous states of India. The place creates about 12,000 tonnes of the fruit every single calendar year.

The fruit can be exported to Persian Gulf international locations, the European Union and the United States. In June 2021, India exported its initially consignment of dragon fruit from a farmer of Maharashtra to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The dragon fruit plant is a member of the cacti household. It is hardy and grows in varied climatic situations with different soils, specially in the semi-arid and arid regions of India. It prefers a little acidic soil and can tolerate some salts in soil way too. 

Offer of techniques

Dragon fruit is a quick-increasing, semi-epiphytic vine that requires vertical pole-like guidance with a ring at the major. The financial lifespan of dragon fruit is extra than 20 several years and in the course of the comprehensive-bearing time period, plants are laden with fruits. It therefore involves pretty solid and tough supporting constructions.

Strengthened cement concrete (RCC) cast poles, two metres in peak, with a square / rectangular plate at the top are utilized to help the vegetation. This needs a bigger preliminary investment decision price tag of Rs 300,000-400,000 for each acre, which further more hinders its adoption.

In addition to this, drip irrigation also provides expense to the initial financial commitment. The construction of RCC poles can be erected at numerous spacings these kinds of as 2.5 × 2 metres, 3 × 1.5 metres, 3 × 3 metres and 4 × 3 metres. Optimum spacing aids absolutely free air circulation and gentle penetration and decreases the distribute of ailment and pests.

In India, farmers cultivate a few most important versions (by colour): White flesh with pink skin, crimson flesh with pink skin and white flesh with yellow skin. In very well-managed orchards, the crops can begin bearing fruit from the very first calendar year of plantation but important yields start off from the third calendar year onwards. 

Flowering and fruiting of dragon fruits coincide with the monsoon period in India. Its flowers are hermaphrodites (male and feminine organs in the same flower) in character and open at evening. Nocturnal agents such as bats and hawk moths act as pollinators.

Right pollination makes certain the fruit environment, sizing and whole yield. Usually, flowering and fruiting happens in a collection of flushes and usually in 3 to five segments (staggered) from June to November.

Fruits are ready to be harvested 30-35 days just after flowering. Each individual fruit weighs close to 200 to 700 grams, based on management techniques. In effectively-managed orchards, financial fruit yields start right after 3 years and the regular produce can be up to five tonnes for every acre.

The fruits are in large demand from customers in metropolitan towns because of to their nutritive benefit. The prices of fruits differ from Rs 50 to Rs 120 for every kg in the Mumbai, Pune and Surat markets. Retailers promote fruits at Rs 60-Rs 100 for each piece in the community current market.

Premiums in the current market are remarkably variable and mainly count on fruit size and pulp color. Dragon fruit necessitates incredibly minor awareness for pests and diseases, hence farmers are displaying additional interest in it.

Flowering dragon fruit plantsFlowering dragon fruit plants

Generally, sunburn is a frequent problem in semi-arid and arid tracts and it can be managed by offering 25-30 for each cent shade either by planting shade-giving trees (these kinds of as moringa, sesbania and Melia dubia) or setting up artificial shade nets in the course of the severe summer months months.

In the Baramati location of Maharashtra, farmers are integrating moringa (Odyssey or PKM 1 range) at a density of 100-120 trees per acre in the dragon fruit orchard. This not only assists to reduce sunburn but also augments profits because of to the sale of moringa pods all through February-May possibly. But superior density planting of shade trees in dragon fruit orchards might also invite pest and disorder challenges thanks to higher humidity and much less air circulation.

To encash on the reputation of the dragon fruit, a lot of farmers and stakeholders have jumped into the nursery small business and are offering cuttings at the amount of Rs. 30 to 80 per plant. As of nowadays, the Federal government of Maharashtra has taken the initiative to market dragon fruit cultivation in diverse regions of the condition by delivering good high-quality planting product and subsidies for its cultivation through the Mission on Integrated Improvement of Horticulture.

An improve in the space less than cultivation and manufacturing of the dragon fruit will make India self-reliant by reducing imports. It is a fruit that is cost-effective and nutritious for the weak and adds to the cash flow of the farmer.

The authors are with the ICAR-Countrywide Institute of Abiotic Stress Administration, Baramati (Pune), Maharashtra

Sights expressed by the author do not automatically mirror that of Down To Earth