The Dragon fruit or Pitahaya has been cultivated for thousands of years. It is a prized fruit in west-coastal regions of China, which is now reaching western to eastern and northern to southern regions of India as well.
How Dragon Fruit is Different from Other Fruits // Business Profit of Dragon Fruit Production // Cultivation of Dragon fruit // Cost of Dragon fruit farming
How Dragon Fruit is Different from Other Fruits
The health benefits of Dragon fruit is widely known. Dragon fruit is a white as well as red fruits with seeds inside. It is rich in nutritional facts such as vitamins, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, beta carotene and minerals such as iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, silica, iron, sulfur and calcium. Dragon fruit is often called as dragon seed.
The flesh is sweet with a pleasant aroma. It is of natural taste. The skin of dragon fruit is much softer and thick in texture. The nutty tasting fruit is a handy snack for any health conscious person. The fruit has high nutrition value and helps in weight loss.
The dragon fruit grows in northeastern areas of India. It is found in the regions like Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri in North Bengal. Dragon fruit can be eaten directly. One can add it to salads, smoothies, desserts, smoothies or milkshakes. Dragon fruit can be used as a substitute for oranges. The fruits are often used in soft drinks, juice drinks and some other health drinks.
Dragon fruit can be eaten fresh as well as canned. It can be added to seasonal dishes like bhel, papad etc.
Dragon fruit is an excellent source of energy. It has 70% of dietary fiber. Dragon fruit is often known as energy booster. The fruit juice is a healthy addition to healthy drinks like lemon lime soda, banana juice, mango, carrot, coconut water etc.
To add to the taste and flavor of dragon fruit, some people add lime, cardamom, powdered coffee powder, powdered nut butter, sugar, ginger, red pepper powder, cinnamon powder and chilli powder. You can mix sweetened coconut milk, honey and pepper powder in dragon fruit juice. The juice is then added to a glass of soft drink or milk.
The juice can also be added to hot chocolate or smoothies. To make green smoothies, you can add green banana, grapes, spinach and dragon fruit juice. Dragon fruit juice is more of a rich vitamin nutrition drink. You can drink it as a juice or as a vitamin drink. Dragon fruit juice is more of a sweet nutrient rich drink. The juice has a sweet taste as well as the aroma of the fruit. Fruits and vegetables of different kinds are commonly added to juices. A variety of fresh fruits like orange, orange juice, apple juice, mango juice, lemon juice, coconut juice, cucumber juice, pineapple juice etc. are frequently added to juices.
Nutrition facts of dragon fruit (per 100 g)
|Crude fibre||1.34 mg|
|Vitamin A||0.01 mg|
|Vitamin C||3.00 mg|
Business Profit of Dragon Fruit Production
The dragon fruit is grown as an alternative to other fruits such as oranges, guava, tomato, avocado etc. The market price of the fruit is high, which is due to its high nutritional value. Dragon fruit is grown in huge plantations. Large scale farmers have brought up new plantations of dragon fruit in some parts of West Bengal. A small family farmer usually has small piece of land on which he grows one or two dragon fruit trees. Farmers have recognized its benefits and started large scale production of dragon fruit. Farmers get high profit from dragon fruit farming. They get good profit from the green market.
The farm can sell the fruit and vegetables at a good price in the market place. In the green market, farmers have to charge more than the market price for the produce. The dragon fruit sells well as an alternative fruit in the West Bengal and all metropolitan city markets. The demand for dragon fruit is high. Farmer produces variety of fruits and vegetables in their farm. So the farmers sell most of the fruits and vegetables in the market.
Profit is earned even when the farm does not produce any fruit or vegetables. A farmer can earn a profit when the land produces a variety of fruits and vegetables. Many small farmers also sell fruits and vegetables in the local market. They do not grow anything but sell fruits and vegetables in the local market. Producers are getting the profit from both the fruits and vegetables they grow. So, a farmer will get more profit if he grows more than just one type of fruit or vegetables.
Most of the farmers also make a good profit from selling juices. Dragon fruit is a better option for juice production than most of the other fruits. A combination of fruits in juice is in high demand. So, farmers make a lot of money from both the juices. The juice business is very profitable for them.
Cultivation of Dragon fruit
Soil and Climate Requirement
Dragon Fruit can be planted on practically any soil, but Sandy soil that have great water system is suitable for dragon fruit cultivation. The pH of the soil should be between 5.5 to 6.5 – 7.0 for a decent harvest. Soil Beds should be 40-50 cm high.
One of the significant benefit of this crop is that it can grow in the extreme temperature condition and soil having even poor quality. But this fruit is best suited for the tropical climate with annual rainfall of 40-60 cm for best growth. The optimum temperature for its best growth is 20-30 degree centigrade.
Species of Dragon Fruits
There are several varieties of Dragon fruits cultivated throughout the world. Among them four species of dragon fruit are famous.
Hylocereus polyrhizus – Red flesh and pink skin (native Mexico)
Hylocereus undatus — White flesh and pink skin, the fruit is 6-12 cm in length and 4-9 cm in thickness with edible black seeds
Hylocereus costaricencis – Violet red flesh and pink skin, the fruit is magenta and the seeds are pear-shaped. (native Costa Rica)
Hylocereus (Selenicerus) megalanthus – White flesh and yellow skin (native South America)
Propagation of Dragon fruit / Pitahaya
Dragon fruit seedlings are moderate developing, and inconsistent for propagation. H. undatus and H. costaricensis species can be increased normally and effectively by removing the stem when it contacts the ground. It requires 12-15 months to come to bearing under west Bengal condition; length of time may differ in various region for various climatic conditions. Seeds can likewise be utilized as engendering material however it will require 3 years to come to bearing.
The strength of the plant enables it to survive under field condition. For satisfactory rooting the length of cutting should be at least 50-60 cm with consistently watering. Dark green branches of 2-3 years old need to be selected and cut into pieces. The cuttings should have good eyes, which are covered by solid thornes and without injury or infestations. It will take 20-30 days to come out roots. If we fulfil all those requirements 90-91% cuttings may ensure rooting. Rooted Stem base need to be cut at angle and kept in a shaded area for about 6-7 days to dry and heal before plantation directly to field.
Plantation of Pitahaya or Dragon fruit
Before plantation, soil bed need to be prepared. Choose an area of 1.5 meter x 1.5 meter and dig at depth of 1 meter, put this hole under sunlight and after 20-25 days fill the hole with soil mixing with 25-30 kg manure or organic fertilizer, 250 gm super phosphate (16:16:9), 250 gm MOP, 150 gm gypsum and 50 gm zinc sulphate. After 10-15 days of filling the hole, 4 rooted cutting to be planted (depth of plantation 1.5-2.0 inches) at a distance of 50 cm in middle position. 100 gm urea fertilizer need to be applied after 1 month to 1 year, every 3 month for each hole/soil bed.
As height of dragon plant reach upto 1.5 – 2.0 meter high, it needs support for smooth growing. 4 meter long wooden or concrete support should be inserted in the middle of 4 plants. All the plants need to be fastened with rope or straw along with the support. A straw ring or tyre may be hanged on top of concrete support so that all stems pass through the ring/tyre and hanging from top. In such hanging stem many flowers bloom.
As dragon fruit may grow in low rainfall area so irrigation system is not a factor. But for good quality fruit water supply is required at regular interval. Micro-irrigation system is generally recommended for dragon fruit cultivation as it can avoid excess watering, prevent the flowers and young fruits falling down.
Harvesting of Dragon fruits
Depending on the species of Dragon fruits it may take 25-30 days time for harvesting the fruits. The color of fruits changed from green to pink or rosy pink. Fully grown fruits should pick up soon otherwise it gets splitted and cause losses, within 4-5 days period it may rot. The yield of fruit depends on planting density; appx. 15-30 ton per hector fruits can be harvested. Special care needs to be taken during harvesting so that fruits get less injury. Fruits are collected 5-6 times per year, collection periods are generally June to October segment and December to January segment.
Fertilization and Pest Control
For better yield of Dragon fruit proper nutrients supply is required.
Fertilization – 50 gm urea and 50 gm super phosphate 3 times per year (Ist year for a single support post). Fruit bearing stage – 0.5 kg urea, 0.5 kg super phosphate, 0.5 kg potassium and 20-25 kg manure 3 times per year (for a single support post). Micro elements may be applied when fruits are developing. But fertilization application must be stopped before 7-10 days of harvesting.
Ants are very dangerous pest for Dragon fruit damage. It not only damage plants but also flowers and fruits. Birds and rats also damage Dragon fruit flowers. Bees are also harmful for a Dragon fruit cultivator. Bees may collect all pollen within a few hours of their activity. Some bacterial, viral and fungal diseases also reported which is might be a concern. Malathion may be applied to control Aphid pests (25 ml or 5 cup malathion per 10 litre water)
Cost of Dragon fruit farming (Approximate)
If we calculate cost for 1 bigha land (1 bigha = 0.33 acre )
Total Concrete support (pillar) required = 220 nos
Cost of one pillar = Appx. Rs. 220/
4 plants per pillar, so total plants = 880 nos.
Total expenses (pillar, plantation, labour, manure/ fertiliser, pesticides, irrigation, miscellaneous) = Appx. Rs. 2 lakh. For first year, cost of production is high. Pillar and plantation cost will be lower from 2nd year onwards.
Fruit weight vary from 150 gm -600 gm per piece. Price of fruit vary from Rs. 150 to Rs. 400/ per kg depending on size of fruits.