Frequently Asked Questions About Dragon Fruit Farming

FAQ’s on Dragon Fruit Cultivation / Frequently Asked Questions About Dragon Fruit Farming:

If you are planning to grow dragon fruit plants, you must read the following Frequently Asked Questions About Dragon Fruit Farming.

  1. What is a dragon fruit and where does it grow?

It is a fruit growing on a cactus species that is considered to be a climbing vine. It actually belongs to the Hylocereus genus in the cactaceae family of plants.  Dragon fruit is believed to be an indigenous fruit of America, but is cultivated in Southeast Asia, Florida, the Caribbean, Australia and in regions with tropical and sub tropical climate.

  1. How long does it take for a dragon fruit to grow and produce fruits?

If dragon fruit plants are being grown through seeds then the estimated time for fruit production is little longer than those plants that have been grown using stem cuttings. The average time required by plant to grow and produce fruits is approximately one year. Some plants also start producing fruits within 5 months of planting.

  1. What is the life span of dragon fruit plant and how tall does this plant grow?

This plant is believed to be a long-lived plant, perennial in nature. The dragon fruit plant can produce fruits until the age of 20 to 30 years. The stems of the plant grow to a maximum length of 6 m and the plant is expected to grow to a height of 40 feet before the end of its life span.

  1. How do you grow dragon fruit and is it possible to grow it indoors?

A few simple steps can help one in growing dragon fruit plants are described here:

  • Initially decide or make the set up ready for growing dragon fruits.
  • Obtain the seeds from a reliable nursery or get the cuttings from a healthy plant.
  • Choose the area for planting like containers or garden etc. If containers are being used, then they should be 15-24 inches in diameter and at least 10 inches deep.
  • Prepare the pot or container by placing some rocks at the bottom and cover them with good draining soil. The pot should be fixed with a pole or trellis in the middle.
  • If the plant is being grown on the ground and if the area is a rain-fed area, then mounds should be created for planting the seeds or cuttings so that in case of excess rainfall, water drains away easily.
  • Allow the cutting to dry before planting.
  • The plant needs adequate sunlight, so plant them in the sun.
  • Plant cuttings should be carefully replaced from the nursery box in the main area; if seeds are being used, then sprinkle the seeds in the container and cover them with light soil.
  • Fertilize the plant occasionally because they are light feeders and a slow release type of low nitrogen fertilizer has to be used once in every two months.
  • Water the plants only when they are dry and if the plant has started climbing the pole installed in the middle, care should be taken to keep the pole moist.
  • It takes about 2 years for the plant to completely grow and establish itself.
  • Prune the plant to encourage better flowering.
  • The fruit should be harvested during the late summer or fall.
  1. How is the dragon fruit harvested?

The best time of harvest is from June-December, but it may also vary depending on the country where the fruit is being cultivated. Only fruits that have completely ripened should be selected for harvest and so this may be done twice in a week. Pruning knives are used to harvest the fruit without getting damaged. The fruits are initially stored in a shady area before packing or being transferred to larger storing areas.

  1. What climate does dragon fruit grow in?

This cactus plant is believed to be different from the other desert origin plant. Dragon fruit grows in areas with sufficient rainfall ranging from 1730-2540 mm/year. The minimum temperature required by the plants is 20-30˚C. The plant is mostly cultivated in the regions with tropical and subtropical climates.

  1. What season is suitable for growing dragon fruits?

The plant is generally grown in the hot months (summer). The plant growth is paused during the rest of the months, but blooming occurs from July to October. The dragon fruit plant bears fruit for five months in a year.

  1. How many varieties of dragon fruit are there?

The varieties of dragon fruit occur in three types such as:

Hylocereus Undatus – pink skinned fruit with white flesh; commonly found fruit.

Hylocereus Costaricensis – is a red skinned fruit with red flesh.

Hylocereus Megalanthus – is a yellow skinned fruit with white flesh.

  1. How is it known when the dragon fruit goes bad?

If the fruit is evenly coloured, then it is considered to be of good quality. If the skin has too many brown blotches or if it has a dry shrivelled stem then it is considered to be overripe. While pressing the fruit with a finger, it should not be too mushy. Over ripe fruits are generally not suitable for eating and are considered bad.

  1. How long do dragon fruit seeds take to germinate?

When dragon fruit is being propagated through seeds it approximately takes about 1-4 weeks for the seeds to germinate, but they can be made to germinate even faster. The seeds that are obtained from within the fruit should be washed thoroughly with water so that there is no flesh attached to them and are left to dry overnight. Planting the seeds in a tray, close to the upper surface of the soil and covering the tray with a plastic cover to help germinate the seeds within 10 or 15 days.

  1. How do you take dragon fruit cuttings?

The segment of the cactus that is one foot long should be used as a new planting material and is often assumed to make 3 or 4 new plants. The one foot long section should be cut into 3-6 inch segments; the ends of the cuttings should be treated with recommended fungicide and is allowed to dry. When the tips of the cuttings turn white after 3 to 5 days, then the cutting is ready to be planted. It is advised to plant the cutting 2 inches into the soil and most importantly, its orientation should be in the same direction as it was on the parent plant. Water it lightly so that it starts rooting in about 1-4 weeks of planting.

  1. How often should one water a dragon fruit plant?

The plant has a shallow root system distributed at the top soil level at a depth of 15-30 cm. If it is a rainfed area, then the distribution of rain should be equal throughout the year. The average rainfall requirement is 1145-2540 mm per year. If the area is under irrigation, then about 1 inch of water is required weekly to the plants such that the soil doesn’t get completely dry.

  1. How does one identify when a white dragon fruit is ripe?

There are different ways to identify ripe dragon fruit such as:

  • Fruits turn red or yellow when ripe.
  • The wings of the fruit turn brown to indicate ripening of the fruit.
  • When the ripe fruit is cut open the flesh should be juicy but firm in texture.
  1. How much fertilizer is required by the dragon fruit plant?

The need for fertilizer by the plant varies with location of planting. The different recommendations are

  • Manure required by each plant is estimated to be around 4 kg, supplied every 4 months along with a Commercial NPK 13-13-13 supplied @ 100 g/plant in the some regions.
  • NPK 16-16-16 @ 180-230 g/plant along with a super bloom fertilizer 0-10-10 or 2-10-10.
  • Plants less than 3 years old are supplied with 10-15 kg of FYM and 100 g of super phosphate per plant during planting. 300 g of urea, 200 g of NPK 16-16-8 is applied to each plant every year for the first two years. Mature plants are given NPK @ 540 g, 720 g, 300 g, respectively in four equal doses.
  • NPK 1: 1: 2 @ 30-40 g/ vine supplied for 3 times in a year is also recommended in some areas.
  • Organic manure along with NPK 15-5-15 and 8 S, 1.6 Mg @ 100 g per plant is another fertilizer quantity used for dragon fruit.
  1. How long does a dragon fruit last?

The fruit can be left under normal conditions for 3-4 days, but beyond this period, it has to be properly refrigerated otherwise it would show signs of browning or yellowing.

  1. What are the common pests of dragon fruit plant and how are they controlled?

This fruit is considered to be free of pests most of the time, but occasionally may be infested with ants, scale insects, mealy bugs, slugs, snails, borers, caterpillars, termites, nematodes, fruit flies, bats, rats and birds. Some control measures are agronomic and crop hygiene, chemical control using copper sulphate, fruit bagging, amending the soil and improving the quality of soil by sterilization.

  1. What type of soil is required for dragon fruit cultivation?

The dragon fruit plant grows in a wide range of soil types. The most important feature of the soil for growing these fruits is that the soil should be well drained because dragon fruits are intolerant to water logging. The condition of the soil should be slightly acidic. Loamy soil with rich organic matter is considered best for growing/cultivating dragon fruits. The salt tolerance of the plants depends on the type of cultivars. The pH of the soil for growing dragon fruit should be around 5.5-6.5. Other soil types suitable for dragon fruit farming are red or yellow podzolic, lateritic soil and reddish brown earth.

  1. How can one store dragon fruit after harvest?

The fruit show decreases in weight and shrivelling after about 8 days of harvest. If the fruit is sold in the local market immediately, then no extra storage facilities are required; else if they are being cultivated for overseas market then storing them properly for several days is mandatory requirement. The fruits are generally stored in perforated bags at 8˚C for 25-30 days. Sometimes, the fruits are stored at 15-20˚C with a relative humidity of 85-90% for fresh market delivery. To store them for 45 days the temperature is maintained at 7-10˚C with humidity of 90-98%. The yellow variety of dragon fruit can be stored for 4 weeks at a temperature of 10˚C. It should be noted that as the temperature increases, the storage period decreases.

  1. What diseases are found on dragon fruit plants and how can they be controlled?

Some common diseases of the dragon fruit are soft watery stem rot, brown spots, anthracnose, Fusarium wilt and other fungal infections. These infections can be controlled by some basic farm management mechanisms like sterilizing the clippers, providing sufficient spacing between the plants, avoid over watering, allowing proper air circulation etc. Use of fungicides like mancozeb, Maneb, copper based sprays etc. is also helpful in controlling the diseases

  1. What is the yield from a dragon fruit farm?

Proper commercial yield could be obtained from the second year of planting. It is estimated that the average yield from a farm of area one hectare is around 10,000-12,000 kgs of fruits. The average weight of the fruit is 350 g, but may vary with the variety. Some farms with excellent management techniques also could produce 18,000-20,000 kgs/ha with an average weight of the fruit being 350-850 g.

  1. How much does a dragon fruit cost?

It is estimated that the price of the dragon fruits in the local market is around Rs 250-400 per kg, but the actual farm gate price of the fruits is estimated to be around Rs 125 to 200 per kg The export market price of the fruits is considered to be a little higher than the local market rate, approximately about Rs 400-600 per kg.

  1. What is the price of the dragon fruit plant or seedling?

The minimum cost of seedling ranges in between Rs 20-60 per plant and should always be obtained from trusted nurseries.

  1. What should be the planting distance for dragon fruit farming?

Many different varieties of spacing systems are used while growing dragon fruit based on the slope and size of the plantation area. The type of trellising is also one of the factors on which plant spacing is dependent on. Spacing recommendations are:

  • Row spacing -3 m, plant spacing -3 m; 1,100 plants/ha.
  • Row spacing -4 m, plant spacing -3 m; 833 plants/ha.
  • Row spacing -4.9 m, plant spacing -3 m; 680 plants/ha.
  • Row spacing -3.7 m, plant spacing -3.7 m; 730 plants/ha.
  1. Why is trellising practiced during dragon fruit farming?

These plants are vined cactus in nature and have to be trained to climb along wooden posts, fences and walls. The plants grow very fast and start drooping to the ground in a short period of time. If the branches fall to the ground, they may get damaged and it causes hindrance in healthy flowering and fruiting. So as to prevent this damage the plants are trellised loosely along different structures. The main vine stem is allowed to trellis and the lateral stems are generally pruned. As the main stem establishes itself on the vine, the plant is allowed to produce branches.

  1. How can dragon fruit plants be propagated?

There are two methods for propagating the fruits: the seed propagation and vegetative propagation.

Seed propagation generally involves, collecting the seeds from the fruits and properly dressing them for sowing. This method is comparatively slower than the vegetative method because seeds take time to germinate and establish. The plants grown through seeds take 3 to 4 years for bearing fruits.

The vegetative method of propagation is easy and considered economical for propagation dragon fruit plants. Cuttings are obtained from the mother plant after the fruiting season and are used for planting. It is considered that longer cuttings establish faster, probably in about 10-15 days.

Sometimes it is also observed that the dragon fruit plants are grown through grafting, but it is not very easy and convenient method of propagation.

  1. What does the dragon fruit look like?

The dragon fruit is considered to be a berry with red skin and large scales. The fruit is medium to large in size and oblong in shape. The pulp within the fruit is white, red or yellow in colour (depending on the variety of the fruit). Initially, when the fruit develops it is green in Colour, but as it reaches the ripening stage it changes to red or pink Colour. The scales of the fruit remain green even as the fruit ripens and this fruit is categorised as a non climacteric fruit.

Read: Growing Dragon Fruits In Pots.

Read: Rose Apple Farming.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I am interested in dragon fruit farming, I have 4 acre of rocky land. For land preparation and planting material costs is little higher compared to other crops, therefore I asked national horticulture board for any subsidies but they don’t have any information about dragon fruit farming. So I’m requesting you to provide guidance for availing financial support from bank at lower interest rate, and also some project reports samples.

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