Dragon fruit, a recently introduced super fruit in India, is considered to be a promising, remunerative fruit crop!!
Dragon fruit is a tropical fruit that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Dragon fruit grows on the Hylocereus cactus, also known as the Honolulu queen, whose flowers only open at night. The plant is native to southern Mexico and Central America. Today, it is grown all over the world. It goes by many names, including pitaya, pitahaya, and strawberry pear. The two most common types have bright red skin with green scales that resemble a dragon — hence the name. The most widely available variety has white pulp with black seeds, though a less common type with red pulp and black seeds exists as well. Another variety — referred to as yellow dragon fruit — has yellow skin and white pulp with black seeds. Dragon fruit may look exotic, but its flavors are similar to other fruits. Its taste has been described as a slightly sweet cross between a kiwi and a pear.
For Dragon fruit plantation, plant the cured cuttings directly into the soil at a depth of at least 1½ – 2 inches. Provide a stake as support for the new plants, e,g. wooden or concrete posts, a wall, or a fence. Mounds should be prepared with loose soil and fertilizer (20 kg organic fertilizer + 0.5 kg super phosphate+ 1kg NPK 16-16-8 per 50 supporting posts before dragon fruit plantation. 3-4 cuttings should be planted around the supporting post and covered with soil, straw, and finally tied. The distance between dragon fruit plants depends on the type of support used. With a vertical support, a 2–3 m distance between planting lines is required which could accommodate 2000 and 3750 cuttings/ ha, at the rate of three cuttings per support is planted. In Dragon Fruit Plantation, for better yield performance of the crop proper nutrient requirement is needed. The pitahaya’s root system is superficial and can rapidly assimilate even the smallest quantity of nutrients. Fertilizer recommendations include :
- The first year: 50 g Urea + 50 g Super phosphat/3 times/year/supporting post.
- Fruit bearing stage : 0.5 kg Urea + 0.5 kg Super phosphate + 0.5 kg potasium + 20 kg organic fertilizer/ 3 times/year/supporting post.
- Additional application of microelements such as foliar fertilizer can be used 1 time/ week when the fruits are developing.
- The fertilizer must be stopped at least 10 days before the fruits be a harvest.
GROW DRAGON FRUIT
This plant is able to grow in any soil that is well-draining, but it prefers to grow in soil that is slightly acidic with a pH level that is between six and seven. Sandy soil is the best option for this plant; if it is not available, just ensure that it is a well-draining soil. To ensure that the dragon fruit is growing properly, give it some fertilizer every month during the active growing season. During the cold winter months, you will want to stop feeding your plant for a few months. because this plant is a cactus plant, it is important to make sure that you are watering it properly. Only water the plant when the top of the soil is dry to the touch, and do not allow the plant to sit in water. The soil needs to be moist, not soaked. The base of the plant can see a little shade, but the tips of the plant require full sun to ensure that the plant blooms properly. If too much shade is given to the plant, the fruit will not do well. Dragon fruit will not grow in cold climates, so make sure that the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent damage from occurring to the plant. For optimal growth, the temperature needs to be between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
DRAGON FRUIT POLLINATION
Moths, bats, and bees pollinate dragon fruit, but there are some varieties that do not self pollinate at all. This is where hand pollination comes into play. You will need to collect the pollen from two different dragon fruit plants, and gently use a cotton swab to paint it onto the stigma of the opposite plant to cross-pollinate. This does need to be done at night, so between the hours of eight at night and eight in the morning is best. If you are pollinating different plants, use a new cotton swab for each. It will take about a month for the fruit to grow.
PESTS AND DISEASES
Mealybugs and aphids can be a common problem for dragon fruit. They are sap-sucking pests that basically feed on the sweet sap of the plant. Aphids also attract ants, who will then feed on the plant as well. Mites and thrips can also be a hindrance; they will not kill the plant, but they are not good for the overall health of the plant. Dragon Spots, which occur on the stems and leaves of a plant, can be the sign that your plant has an infection. Bacteria can cause other issues as well as soft stem rot. This is a disease that affects the ends of the branches. These illnesses are typically transferred from plant to plant, so sterilize your clippers. Sunburn can occur during the hottest time of the year when the sun is sweltering hot, and if too much water is given to the plant, root rot can also occur.
HARVEST YOUR DRAGON FRUIT
The fruit skin colors very late in the maturation stage, changing from green to red or rosy-pink (25 or 27 days) (depending on the species) after anthesis. It will take 30 days for harvest to H. costaricensis. Four or five days later, the fruits reach their maximal coloration and lead to splitting and cause economical loss. The first harvest begins from the 14th months (H. costaricensis) after the cuttings were planted under the West Bengal condition; the time period between flowering and harvest is short and varies only slightly, from (27 to 33 days) depending on the ecology. The yield depends on planting density and is around (10 to 30 t/ha). The absence of a peduncle makes picking difficult. The present harvesting technique of simply move the fruit in a clockwise direction and twisting the fruit cause less or no injury to the fruits. The fruits are not very fragile, but to ensure a good quality product certain precautions should be taken; for example, careful handling during processing and storage, especially for H. costaricensiswhose foliated scales is brittle.
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