Dragon fruit is crop of choice in Agency area

Rajahmundry: In the Agency tracts of East Godavari district, efforts are underway to promote the cultivation of dragon fruit (genus Hylocereus), a plant native to south Mexico and central America but today grown all over the world.
At the Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Dr YSR Horticulture University in Venkataramanna Gudem, trials of dragon fruit cultivation were carried out at the KVK farm in December 2018. Now, at 11-months-old, the crop is ready for flowering. With the growth of the plant having held out under rainfed conditions and requiring minimum intervention, it has proved to be a suitable crop for Agency areas, particularly in Chintoor mandal and other parts of East Godavari district. It is also a plant that can fetch profitable returns for farmers.
A tropical and drought-resistant plant, dragon fruit is cultivated mainly in Thailand, Vietnam, Israel and Sri Lanka. Over the last two to three years, however, farmers in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have taken up its cultivation on the promise of its high market value, which is in part driven by the rich antioxidants and medicinal properties of the fruit. High in minerals and vitamins, benefits of consuming the fruit range from lowering cholesterol and controlling diabetes to improving heart health.
Speaking to TOI, Bhanu Murthy, a scientist (horticulture) at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra at Pandirimamidi in Rampa Chodavaram, said the fruit can be consumed directly or used to make jams, juices and wine. Dragon fruit cultivated in India covers only three varieties of the crop, he said, which are a red fruit with white pulp, red fruit with red pulp and yellow fruit with white pulp.
The plant is suitable for cultivation in areas of low rainfall, soil with poor drainage and areas with variations in temperature, with the ideal temperature ranging between 25-35 degrees Celsius, said Murthy.
Around 1,600 to 1,700 dragon fruit plants can be cultivated on one acre of land but the crucial aspect of cultivation is the growth of the plant on vertical cement or metal poles. The plant starts to yield fruit between 10 to 12 months after it is planted, said Murthy, with Jule-July being the flowering season and fruits appearing between September and December.
A single plant yields fruit for 20 to 25 years. Each fruit weighs around 250-300 gram on average. The market price for one kilogram is between Rs 150-Rs 200.

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