Cultivation of Dragon fruit in India; A full information Guide
Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus Sp.) is a perennial climbing cactus plant Dragan fruit is widely cultivated in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. USA, Australia, and some countries of Southeast Asia are the leading growing area of dragon fruit. Dragon Fruit also is known as Red Pitaya fruit In recent years this fruit drew attention to among Indian farmers due to its high economic value, medicinal properties, Nutritional value, and its color and taste. Dragan fruit introduced in India in the early 90,s Since then production area under dragon fruit cultivation is continuously increasing and today it is mainly grown in the state like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujrat, Odisha, and Kerala. Dragon fruit demand is increasing day by day in the country and to meet the domestic demand India imports Dragon fruits from the country like; SriLanka, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia hence dragon fruit cultivation is a good opportunity for the farmers to enhance the farm economy.
Dragon fruit belongs to the cactus family hence it requires a long day to flowering and cultivation of this fruit is well suited to the dry and frost-free regions. Although the initial investment in the Dragon fruit is quite high it gives substantial results within three to four years of planting.
Nutritive Value of Dragon Fruit;
The nutrients value of a 100 gms of serving piece of dragon fruit as per USDA are as follows ;
1) Calories: 60 , 2) Protein: 1.2 grams 3) Fat: 0 grams
4) Carbs: 13 grams 5) Fiber: 3 grams 6) Vitamin C: 3% of the RDI 7) Iron: 4% of the RDI and 8) Magnesium: 10% of the RDI
Dragon fruit contains a small amount of but it is a decent source of vitamin ‘c’, Magnesium, Iron, and crude fibers with a low amount of calorie content hence Dragon fruit considered one of the most nutrient-dense fruit.
Medicinal Value of Dragon Fruits;
1) It reduces the risk of diabetes and Cancers
2) Boost the Immunity
3)Good for the digestive system
4) Helps in decreasing the cholesterol levels
5) It is a very good source of anti-oxidants.
6) It is helpful in fighting against the aging skin
7) It is good for healthy bones
Different Types of Dragon fruits;
There are mainly three types of Dragon fruits ;
1)Hylocereus undatus (Pitaya blanca or white-fleshed pitaya) has pink-skinned fruit with white flesh. This is the most commonly seen “dragon fruit”.
2)Hylocereus costaricensis (Pitaya roja or red-fleshed pitaya, also known as Hylocereus polyrhizus) has red-skinned fruit with red flesh.
3)Hylocereus megalanthus (Pitaya amarilla or yellow pitaya, also known as Selenicereus megalanthus) has yellow-skinned fruit with white flesh.
Climatic Requirements for Dragon Fruit Cultivation;
Dragon fruit belongs to the cactus family but unlike other desert-originated cacti, it requires an adequate amount of water because dragon fruits are originated from the tropical rainfed regions. This plant required 1150 mm to 2400 mm of yearly rainfall. Dragon fruit cultivation is well suited to tropical dry conditions with an average temperature range between 25 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees celsius. Planting accomplished under full sunlight conditions gives good results. Excessive rainfall area is not suitable for its cultivation because the heavy rains result in fruit and flower drop.
Soil Requirement for Dragon Fruit Cultivation ;
Dragon fruit cultivation can be grown in a wide range of soil types with good drainage. The sandy loam soil rich in organic matter with a good drainage facility and has a pH range between 5.5 to 7 is more suitable for its cultivation.
Propagation of Dragon Fruit ;
Dragon fruits are commercially propagated through stem cutting. Although it may be propagated via seeds but the fruits produced through seed cultivation are not true to the type due to a large number of variations between the plants hence commercially this method of multiplication is not used. Mostly 25-30 cms long stem cutting is used for its multiplication. The following steps should be taken into consideration for the dragon fruit multiplication –
1) The cutting should be prepared one or 2 days before the Planting.
2)The latex oozing out of the cutting must be dried
3) Cutting must be done from the elite mother plant after the completion of the fruiting season.
4) Cutting should be treated with a suitable fungicide.
5) Cutting should be planted in the polythene bags of size 12cms x 30 cms filled with a mixture of soil, sand, and farmyard manure in 1:1:1ratio.
6)These cuttings will be ready for planting after 5-6 months.
Dragon plant prefers sunlight hence shady land must be avoided for planting. single post system planting should be done at a distance of 3×3 meters. The single post vertical pole height should be 1.5 to 2 meters at which point is allowed to branch and hang downwards. The number of plants per pole 2-4 depending upon the growing conditions. ( The average growth rate of dragon fruit vines is so quick on an average it grows approx 8.2 cm per week.) In about 8 months after planting the dragon fruit forms a thick dense mass of vines on top of the trellis which lies dropping to the ground.
The training system in Dragon Fruits cultivation;
Dragon plants can climb naturally on any kind of support like poles, cemented post, etc The immature plants should be tied with the vertical support, and only 2-3 lateral branches allowed to grow. (All the lateral growth facing towards the ground must be removed) .
Dragon fruit’s plant root system is very shallow and can assimilate the nutrients very fast The recommended doses of fertilizers are;
Apply the 10-15 kg of organic fertilizer per plant in the first year later on the applied quantity of organic may be increased by 10% per year. The requirement of the inorganic fertilizers can be fulfilled by applying a complete fertilizer (19:19:19) @ 100 gms/plant with an interval of three to four-month.
Dragon fruit plant can under very low fall conditions and can face drought over a long period But for the good quality of fruit regular water supply is essentially required. Dragon fruit plant has a shallow root system hence local drip irrigation system is the best alternative for watering. Avoid excessive irrigation because it may cause several fungal and may reduce the quality of the fruits.
Harvesting of the Dragon Fruits;
The fruits are ready to harvest after the 12 to 15 months of the planting and an indication of fruit maturity is the changing of epicarp color from green to Pinkish-Red. The best time for the harvesting is after the 7 days of changing the color stage. Plants bear the fruits from Aug to Dec The harvesting can be done 3-4 times in the month.
The average fruit weight ranges around 500-800 gms and the average weight of the fruits from a single post is approximately 30-35 kgs. On average 5-6 tonnes of fruits can be harvested from an area of one acre.