Dragonfruit production, disease management highlight monthly in-house webinar

Streamed live by 364 viewers, the dragon fruit production and disease management highlight the monthly in-house webinar of the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Bureau of Agricultural Research held on 15 September 2021 via Facebook.

Plant pathology expert Dr. Mark Angelo Balendres of the University of the Philippines Los Baños-Institute of Plant Breeding served as the resource speaker.

He discussed the benefits of consuming dragon fruit; the business of growing the fruit; and the production, management, plant diseases, as well as the research and production prospects.

Dragon fruit is considered as “the new money crop” by the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry. One kilo of the fruit costs around PhP 120-150 in the local market.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, total production area and volume increased more than 10 times from 2011 to 2020. Dr. Balendres shared that the national average of production is at 3.2 metric tons per hectare.

Based on reports, dragon fruit production can be profitable with good management practices.

Dragon fruit production requires an open field with direct exposure to sunlight. Soil should be sandy loam with high organic content and well-drained with a pH between 5.5 to 6.5. 

Dr. Balendres encouraged interested growers to reach out to their municipal agricultural offices for a soil analysis to ensure that it is healthy for dragon fruit production.

The production of dragon fruit relies on sunlight and temperature. Hence the fruiting time in the Philippines is from May to October. However, this can be extended through off-season production by introducing additional lighting.

He stressed that some dragon fruit varieties would not bear fruit without successful pollination. Assisted pollination is not required for self-fertile varieties but is encouraged for bigger fruits. In contrast, it is necessary for self-sterile varieties.

Harvesting at 28-30 days after flowering will give the ideal quality of the fruits. These can be stored at five degrees Celsius for up to four weeks or 20 degrees Celsius for up to seven to 14 days, depending on varieties.

“Stem canker and anthracnose are major dragon fruit problems. Field sanitation, healthy planting materials, and avoiding overhead sprinkler irrigation are some of the measures to mitigate disease impact,” explained Dr. Balendres. ### (Rena S. Hermoso)