Lady of the night, climbing cactus or miracle fruit – whatever you choose to call it, dragon fruit has caught the attention of South African farmers and we are here for it.
Never heard of dragon fruit before? It’s almost everywhere these days; retail stores, markets, almost everywhere. But what exactly about this niche crop is attracting farmers in Mzansi to it and what’s all the fuss about?
During a recent episode of Food For Mzansi’s weekly Gather To Grow interactive discussion on Twitter, experts unpacked all there is to know about farming with this subtropical fruit.
According to Jackye Riddle of DragonFruit Patensie, farmers that are looking into this exotic crop should make sure that the fruit can in fact grow in their area.
“Dragon fruit is essentially a tropical subtropical fruit. It cannot cope in extremely cold conditions, so for anyone farming in an area like that it is going to be extremely difficult for them to grow,” Riddle says.
A plus point about growing this fruit is that it is relatively carefree. “It does not take huge quantities of water and it’s not fussy about soil. It’s not a very difficult plant to grow – it’s very easy,” she explains.
Shortfalls and challenges
Meanwhile Lauren Strever, nursery manager at Amorentia Estate and Nursery points out that there are some shortfalls and challenges in cultivating dragon fruit.
“One of our challenges is high rainfall during summer. That is when the fruit is flowering and needing to set a crop. If you have rain on the days that you happen to have big flowers open, the bees struggle to do the best job they can in pollination,” Strever says.
Also, because it is such a big and beautiful fruit, it is attractive to birds and animals. There are also some diseases and some pests, but it is not as intensive to control those.
Further in the session, speakers unpack:
- Planting material and structures needed to cultivate dragon fruit
- Best varieties and cultivars
- Harvesting and post-harvesting season
- Local and export market opportunities
- Pest control measures.
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