By Julio P. Yap Jr.

The popularity of dragon fruit has burgeoned over recent years.It has become the fruit of choice for those who are concerned with their health because dragon fruit is considered to be among the most nutritious fruits available in the market.

Dragon fruit, which is also known as “Pitaya” or “Pitahaya” fruit, has also become a favorite due to its mouth-watering light, sweet taste and unusual shape.

Increasing Demand

Since the demand for dragon fruit continuous to increase, the projections for dragon fruit to become a plantation crop in the country has also surged.

The white-fleshed dragon fruit variety.

To help address the increasing demand for dragon fruit in both the local and international markets, Dragon Wellness Farms, Inc., which is located at Sitio Tanauan in Barangay Palaypalay, Jalajala, Rizal, started to boost its production. Aside from its present 13 hectares of land, which is already planted with about 13,000 productive hills of dragon fruit plants, the farm is now in the process of developing another seven hectares for its expansion.

According to Marijo L. Fabre, general manager of Dragon Wellness Farm, they have to increase their production to meet the increasing demand for the fruit.

Nutritional Values

She said the popularity of dragon fruit climbed because of its nutritional values, among many other things. Fabre said the fruits contain Vitamin C, minerals, and have high fiber content, aside from containing phytoalbumins.

Basically, these nutrients are known for the antioxidants they possess, which can help in preventing the formation of free radicals that may cause cancer. The regular consumption of dragon fruit has benefited those suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes.

Varieties

The fruit comes from the dragon fruit cactus plant, which usually appears like vines. Three of the most common varieties of dragon fruit cultivated commercially are red (Hylocerus undatus), white flesh (Hylocerus polyrhizus), and yellow (Selenicereus megalanthus).

The red dragon fruit variety.

The plant usually blooms several times in a year, usually from May to October.

Dragon fruit has a very high potential as a commercial product because it is now used in producing juices, wine, jam, and even vinegar, in addition to its perceived medicinal value.

To maintain the productivity of the dragon fruit plants on the Dragon Wellness Farm, their nutrient requirements are always be provided through proper fertilization. According to farm
manager Wilfredo G. Tuso III, they now source farm inputs like Peters Blossom Booster, Peters Yield Booster, Peters General Purpose, Peters STEM orsoluble trace elements mix, and Nordox
75 WG from Allied Botanical Corporation (ABC).

Aside from the farm inputs, ABC also provides technical assistance to the farm through regular visits by Allan T. Cledera, a market development specialist from ABC.

With proper fertilization, the farm can produce an average output of about 90 tons per fruiting season.

So far, the biggest enemy of the dragon fruit plant is water logging, so the Dragon Wellness Farm uses of drip irrigation.Too much rainfall or water logging will lead to flower drop, and may cause the fruits to rot.

Farm manager Wilfredo Tuso poses with a dragon fruit plant.

The plant also requires a tropical climate, especially when growing for commercial purposes to
maintain a successful and fruitful plantation.

As for its production of one of the most famous products of Jalajala, the Dragon Wellness Farm says its efforts in producing dragon fruits is one way of helping the town to develop by providing livelihood opportunities to the local residents. In the very near future, the farm will be fully developed to become a farm tourism destination where lodging facilities will be made
available for enthusiasts and prospective dragon fruit growers.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s September 2016 issue.