Dragon fruit can now be available all year-round through an off-season production technology.
This is a result of the study conducted by a research team led by Leonardo T. Pascua, Dragon Fruit Research, Development and Extension Project Leader and Regional Techno-Transfer Coordinator of the Ilocos Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (ILARRDEC) based at the Mariano Marcos State University, Batac City.
Pascua disclosed that the off-season production is made possible by manipulating the environment through artificial lighting using 6-watt Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs or 26-watt compact fluorescent lamps (CFL).
The lighting time, from 10:00 in the evening until 2:00 the following morning, can induce the dragon cactus to flower during short day-months of October─March. The bulbs are suspended at the center of the four posts of dragon cactus five feet above the ground.
In a three- month comparative study using 26-watt CFL and 6-watt LED, it was found that the 160 posts dragon cactus, planted in a 1,000 square meter-field, using 26-watt CFL could yield 729.6 kg and earn a net income of P60,329.
Moreover, the area lighted with 6-watt LED produced 560 kg and earned a net income of P21, 086.
The production cost of lighting materials, electricity, and labor for 26-watt CFL plot was P49,111, while the 6-watt LED plot spent P62,914.
This technology has been tested in the farms of Magsasaka Syentista Edita A. Dacuycuy and Rosebel Rasay in Burgos, Ilocos Norte; and in Engr. Albert Calsada’s farm in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.
Before, meeting the demand for dragon fruit in the market during off-season has been a concern as the dragon cactus does not produce fruits during the short-day months of October─March. The 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.
The research on the off-season production of dragon fruit is an offshoot of a group study tour to Vietnam initiated and led by Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee R. Marcos. The group observed Vietnam’s dragon fruit production system using artificial lights for flower induction during the short day-months.
In a related development, Gov. Marcos, in her speech in one of the farmers’ congress in Laoag City, requested the electric cooperative in Ilocos Norte to offer cheaper electricity for those dragon fruit farms using the technology.