The exotic dragon fruit now grows in Dindigul

Updated - July 11, 2024 05:01 pm IST

Published - July 10, 2024 05:57 pm IST - Dindigul

Dragon fruits ready to harvest at a farm at Velankannipuram in Dindigul district on Wednesday.

Dragon fruits ready to harvest at a farm at Velankannipuram in Dindigul district on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: G. Karthikeyan

For the first time in Dindigul district, on the foothills of Sirumalai, a farmer from Velankannipuram has tasted sweet success by growing the vitamin-packed dragon fruits. His one-acre farmland is filled with rows and rows of hylocereus, a type of climbing cactus that bears the dark pink-hued dragon fruit.

A. Susaimanickam switched over to cultivating dragon fruit about two years ago. For about 15 years, he had been growing grapes, which is ubiquitous to the region. But of late, he found that whatever little profit he made was being pumped back into the farm. There was a regular need for hiring workers to maintain the vineyard and the salary for the farmhands was eroding his profit. He also had to get fertilizers and pesticides, and any vagaries in the climate only lead to destruction of the produce.

| Video Credit: G. Karthikeyan

A YouTube video on cultivation of dragon fruit caught his eye, and he along with his family members decided to give it a shot. Though the fruit is a native of South America, many in India were growing it in their kitchen garden. Willing to take a risk, the farmer’s son Suresh went to Tiruttani and got about 4,000 saplings.

Again, YouTube videos helped them in setting up trellis type of planting and the ring type. In the first year in about 30 cents and they planted the saplings. About a year later, they managed to make a profit of about ₹80,000.

There was no looking back after that. Susaimanickam’s daughter-in-law, says, “We realised that it is only for initial work such as erecting fencing stones that is used as a trainer to help the plant grow and other works like digging of pits that we would need labour. Other than that we would need just a few workers to help about twice or thrice a year when we add animal manure to the soil. Otherwise as a family we are able to maintain the farm without any additional expenses.”

The initial expense for the one-acre plot came to about ₹6 lakh. But within two years, about 2,000 saplings have reached the fruit-yielding stage with each plant producing about 20 kg of dragon fruit.

“Many people have started coming to the farm to buy the fruit and we sell it for ₹160 per kg. We also go to markets in Dindigul and Madurai where we sell it for ₹200 per kg,” Sukanya adds.

Being a cactus variety, the problem of pest infestation is less. As the trunks and the arms of the plant have a sweet nectar, attack by ants is common and which can be curtailed, they add. The family says that they have been told that the plant would yield for fifteen years.

Susaimanickam is happy that they took the risk as there is no additional cost and also the cacti is drought resistant. “The plant is not delicate and does not need regular care. Even drip irrigation is done about once or twice a week,” he adds.

He says many come to enquire about how to grow the plant in their terrace garden. Being an exotic fruit, the family has been unable to get a loan from banks but they add that they have got a subsidy from the government. Having earned kudos from the Horticulture department for cultivating the fruit, Susaimanickam hopes that many would go in for cultivating the fruit.

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