Dragon Fruit cultivation in Kenya
Dragon fruit is a vine-like climbing cactus that serves both as a fruit crop and an ornamental plant. Dragon fruit is mostly eaten raw as fresh fruit. It can also be processed into juice, wine and jam. Dragon fruit cultivation is picking up in the country. We have different categories of farmers cultivating this fruit crop;
- Those who plant mainly for value addition especially wine.
- Farmers who sell their produce to fruit vendors or directly to consumer
- And there those who plant for own consumption
This post is mainly targeted for you who wish to cultivate a few plants for your nutrient requirement. There many reasons for you to have this plant in your garden;
- Dragon fruits are highly nutritious
- Low maintenance cost
- Minimal after care
- can be planted in area that has limited space
- dragon fruit is a fast return perennial fruit crop with production expected from 18-24 months after planting
- Once grown you can harvest for more than 20 years
The major constraint is the use of trellises. Dragon fruit plants are vine-like and need support hence the need of posts either concrete or wooden.. This article will take you through the basics of dragon fruit cultivation that include; climate & soil requirement, propagation & varieties, planting & irrigation, plant care, harvesting.
- Climate & soil-Dragon fruit prefer tropic and sub tropic regions that have high temperature, 20-32°C is sufficient. You should plant dragons in well drained soils with high organic matter. Like most fruit crops it does not tolerate waterlogging.
- Propagation & varieties- Dragon fruit seedlings are mostly propagated by cuttings. There are five main dragon fruit types:
- Pink fruit skin with white flesh
- Red fruit skin with red flesh
- Red fruit skin with white flesh
- Yellow fruit skin with white flesh
- Yellow fruit skin with red flesh
- Planting & irrigation-For proper upright growth the plants need strong support structures. Concrete or wooden posts are mostly used. The supporting posts are placed in the middle of the planting hole well in advance before planting. For best growth and fruit production plant dragon in an area that receives enough sunlight and less wind. Dragon plants require less water compared to other fruit plants. They require frequent irrigation at the time of:
- Fruit development stage
- And during hot dry climate
- Plant Care– These after care activities will ensure proper plant growth and fruit development.
- Fertilization-Dragon fruit demand for nitrogen is comparatively less compared to other fruit crops. You can grow them organically using compost and farm yard manure
- Pest & diseases management-there are fewer disease and pest attacks. As a good practice, prevention is better than cure. There may be cases of thrips, mealy bugs and slug attack. Be on the watch out for any early signs of attack and act to deter any attack. Anthracnose is the most significant disease.
- Pruning & training- prune your plant to remove all damaged or diseased stems. Ensure any stem that touches the ground is removed. Train the main stem and tie it to the support structure as the plant grows. Once the stem reaches the top, cut the tip to induce branching
- Harvesting– The fruits are likely to be ready for harvest 45-50 days after fruit set. Fruit ripen at different times and should be selectively harvested. You should carefully remove the fruits from the plant for they are easily damaged. The average fruit weight is 300 grams but with proper tree care and fruit thinning you can attain weight of between 850-1000 grams per fruit.
If you are entrepreneurial then dragon fruit could be an asset. But before heavily investing take time to do test plants and familiarize yourself with the cultivation process. Learn to do more using less, your establishment cost should be minimal-we can assist in this area. Have a clear road map of who your customers are and how your product will reach them. Is there market for the fruit? We cannot tell. We believe it is your work as an entrepreneur to find market for the fruit.