The dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus) is indigenous to the Americas. Its name comes from its appearance — leather-like skin and scaly spikes on the exterior of the fruits. The low maintenance and high profitability of dragon fruits have attracted the farming community throughout India.
The dragon fruit was introduced to home gardens in India in the 1990s. It gained wider popularity among farmers due to its profitability and the fact that it needed lower inputs once established. The plant sustains yield for more than 20 years, is high in nutraceutical properties, and is good for value-added processing industries.
The flowering and fruiting of dragon fruits coincide with the monsoon season in India. Its flowers are hermaphrodites (male and female organs in the same flower) in nature and open at night. Nocturnal agents such as bats and hawk moths act as pollinators.
Proper pollination ensures the fruit setting, size and total yield. Usually, flowering and fruiting occurs in a series of flushes and normally in three to five segments (staggered) from June to November. Fruits are ready to be harvested 30-35 days after flowering. Each fruit weighs around 200 to 700 grams, depending on management practices. In well-managed orchards, economic fruit yields start after three years and the average yield can be up to five tonnes per acre.
The fruits are in high demand in metropolitan cities due to their nutritive value. Rates in the market are highly variable and mainly depend on fruit size and pulp color. Dragon fruit requires very little attention for pests and diseases, hence farmers are showing more interest in it.
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