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After 5 years of testing, PAU recommends 2 varieties of dragon fruit for Punjab farmers

In a major push for crop diversification, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has approved and recommended two dragon fruit varieties suitable for cultivation in the state, after more than five years of evaluation and research.

The state variety approval committee has greenlit the varieties—Red Dragon 1 and White Dragon 1—and have now been recommended for commercial cultivation after their average yield after the fourth year of planting was found to be 8 .35 kg/pillar and 8.75 kg/pillar, respectively.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Harminder Singh, Chief Fruit Scientist, PAU, said that both varieties have been tested and evaluated by PAU in the conditions of Punjab after the varsity sourced the germplasm from ICAR recognized institutes in Maharashtra and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He said that for a few years, a handful of farmers have already been practicing dragon fruit cultivation in the state and earning profits, but with PAU now officially recommending these two varieties, it is hoped that more farmers will adopt it as a crop that fetches good prices on the market. open market.

“The Department of Fruit Science, PAU, initiated the evaluation of dragon fruit with the introduction of 100 cuttings from National Institute of Abiotic Stress Management (NIASM), ICAR Malegaon, Pune, Maharashtra in February 2017. Also in 2019 , three other varieties of dragon fruit were brought from ICAR-Central Island Agricultural Research Institute (CIARI), Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, for evaluation in Punjab conditions.Although we had tested three types in PAU campus: fruit dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus), red-fleshed dragon fruit (Hylocereus polyrhizus) and yellow-fleshed dragon fruit (Hylocereus megalanthus), we recommended the white and red ones to farmers as they gave better results,” said the Dr. Singh.

Dr. Singh added that dragon fruit, also known as pitaya (Hylocereus sp.), belongs to the Cactaceae family. It is a fast growing perennial climbing cactus and native to Mexico and Central and South America. This fruit is widely grown in Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Israel, Nicaragua, Australia, USA, Mexico etc. In India, dragon fruit is grown in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and some other states. Dragon fruit is an excellent source of antioxidants as it is rich in beta carotene, lycopene, vitamin E, vitamin C along with a high content of phosphorus and calcium. It also contains fatty acids, i.e. 48 percent linoleic acid and 1.5 percent linolenic acid in its black seeds.

He added that for the farmers of Punjab, who are currently entangled in the cycle of wheat and paddy and facing problems such as depletion of the water table and deteriorating soil health, growing dragon fruit can bring many benefits. “The main advantage of this fruit is that, once planted, it can bear fruit for up to 20 years. It is very easy to propagate. The market demand is quite high and farmers can get good yields,” she said.

However, initially, farmers may also face some problems such as high investment to establish a cactus creeper system, Erwinia and other bacterial rot problems, succulent vine wilting during summer months and the flowering period coincides with the rainy season with consequent loss of flowers and fruits.

PAU is now ready to supply dragon fruit seeds of recommended varieties starting in July. “The plant bears fruit from July to November. Farmers can buy the seeds from PAU July onwards,” Dr Singh said.

He added that the quality of the fruit produced on the PAU campus was outstanding with a caliber of 200-250g.

PAU publishes the program of Kisan Melas

Punjab Agricultural University has released the itinerary for the series of seven Kisan Melas to be held in March. The series will kick off with the first Kisan Mela at Nag Kalan Jahangir, Amritsar on 2nd March followed by Ballowal Saunkhri, Gurdaspur and Faridkot on 7th, 10th and 14th March respectively.

Kisan Melas in Rauni in Patiala and Bathinda will be organized on 16th and 21st March respectively. The final two-day Kisan Mela at PAU campus, Ludhiana is scheduled for March 24 and 25.

Dr Satbir Singh Gosal, Vice-Chancellor, PAU, noted that agricultural expansion with a boost to economic growth while addressing the challenges of natural resource depletion and the climate crisis is a research priority of the PAU.