Dragon fruit can now be produced during off-season

We can now produce dragon fruit in the Philippines during the months of November to April. This was disclosed by Dragon Fruit RDE Project Leader and Regional Techno-Transfer Coordinator Leonardo T. Pascua of Ilocos Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (ILARRDEC) based at the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in Batac City.  According to Pascua, manipulating the environment such as artificial lighting using 6-watt Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs or 26-watt compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) between 10 o’clock in the evening until two o’clock the following morning can induce dragon cactus to flower during short day-months. The bulbs are suspended at the center of the four posts of dragon cactus five feet above the ground.

 In a three month study from a 1,000 square meter-fieldplanted with 160 posts of dragon cactus, using 26-watt CFL yielded 729.6 kg of dragon fruit and earned a net income of P 60, 329.00. The area lighted with 6-watt LED produced 560 kg and a net income of P 21, 086.00. The production cost of lighting materials, electricity and labor for 26-watt CFL plot was P 49,111.00 while the 6-watt LED plot spent P62,914.00.

 The research team is led by Pascua with MMSU Professors Maura Luisa S. Gabriel and Marcial Gabriel, and MMSU President Miriam E. Pascua. MMSU is a five-campus university whose seat of administration is the 300-hectare main campus in Batac City situated 470 kilometers northwest of Manila. ILARRDEC is one of the 14 government regional R&D consortia coordinated by the Los Banos-based Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

 This technology has been tested in the farms of Magsasaka Syentista Edita A. Dacuycuy in Burgos, Ilocos Norte and Engr. Albert Calzada in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte. With the convincing result, more growers are expected to invest on this technology. This will meet the demands of dragon fruits in our country especially during New Year. Previously, answering the demand of dragon fruit in the market during off season has been a concern. As we all know, dragon cactus does not produce fruits during off-season or short day-months from October to March. It is because dragon cactus is a long-day flowering plant which requires shorter dark nights to produce flowers. Thus, breaking the dark period with supplemental lighting can induce flowering.

 This is now the offshoot of the initiative of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee R. Marcos where she led a group including Leonardo T. Pascua that visited Vietnam to study that country’s dragon fruit production system. The group saw dragon fruit plantations using artificial lights for flower induction during the short day-months.

 Related to this development, in her speech during one of the farmers’ congress held in Laoag City, Gov. Marcos ask the electric cooperative in Ilocos Norte to have a cheaper electricity for those dragon fruit farms using the technology. She has been spearheading various intiatives in response to the demands of dragon fruit both local and international markets.