Jan 1, 1970

GOOD NEWS to all dragon fruit lovers. You can now enjoy this medicinal wonder any time of the year.

Ilocos Norte has started producing dragon fruit even during the off-season months from November to April. This was disclosed by Leonardo T. Pascua, regional techno-transfer coordinator and Dragon Fruit RDE Project leader of the Ilocos Agriculture and Aquatic Resources Research and Development Consortium (ILAARRDEC) based here at MMSU. According to Pascua, manipulating the environment, particularly the employment of artificial lighting using 6-watt Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs or 26-watt compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) between 10 p.m. until 2 a.m., can induce the dragon cactus to flower during short-day months. The bulbs are suspended 5 ft above the ground at the center of four dragon cactus posts.

Based on the results of a three-month study conducted at MMSU on a 1,000 sq m field planted with 160 posts of dragon cactus, the use of 26-watt CFL yielded 729.6 kg of dragon fruit and earned a net income of P60,329 while the area lighted with 6-watt LED bulbs produced 560 kg and a net income of P21,086. The production cost of lighting materials, electricity, and labor for the 26-watt CFL plot was P49,111 while the 6-watt LED plot entailed expenses amounting to P62,914.

This technology has also been successfully tested in the farms of Magsasaka Syentista Edita Dacuycuy and engineer Albert Calzada in the province’s Burgos and Bacarra towns, respectively. With the convincing results, more growers are expected to adopt this good agricultural practice which can help the industry meet the growing demand for dragon fruit in local and foreign markets, especially during the New Year. The lack of supply during off season has been a problem. The dragon cactus does not bear fruit during off-season or short day-months because it is a long-day flowering plant which requires shorter dark nights to produce flowers. Breaking the dark period with supplemental lighting can thus induce flowering.

This interesting development is an offshoot of the initiative of Ilocos Norte Governor Imee R. Marcos who led in July last year a delegation, which included Pascua and this writer, in a visit to Vietnam to study the country’s dragon fruit production system. The group met with agriculture officials and key industry personalities in Bin Thuan province whose 13,000 hectares of dragon fruit plantations is largest in the country heavily damaged by war in the previous century but is now one of the fastest growing economies in Asia.

Awed by the successful technology adoption, Governor Marcos, in her speech during a farmers’ congress held in Laoag City, asked the local electric cooperative to provide cheaper electricity for farms using the technology. Bent on making Ilocos Norte the Dragon Fruit Capital of the Philippines, the governor has been keen on enabling farmers to boost their production.

Led by Pascua, the research team also included professors Maura Luisa S. Gabriel and Marcial D. Gabriel, and MMSU president Miriam E. Pascua.