Karnataka

Karnataka’s growing expertise in dragon fruit cultivation

Members of a women’s self-help group at the dragon fruit farm of the IIHR at Hirehalli in Tumakuru district. Across the State, the fruit is being cultivated on over 1,000 acres.

Members of a women’s self-help group at the dragon fruit farm of the IIHR at Hirehalli in Tumakuru district. Across the State, the fruit is being cultivated on over 1,000 acres.   | Photo Credit: K Murali Kumar

In the last two years, cultivation of this crop has picked up with technical support from IIHR

 

Karnataka is fast emerging as the country’s leader in dragon-fruit cultivation, which is spread over 1,000 acres in the State.

Not only that, the State has become a knowledge bank for the cultivation of the exotic fruit as scientists of the Hessarghatta-based Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR) are supporting its cultivation in different parts of the country through technical counselling.

Its popularity can be judged by the fact that besides farmers from Karnataka, over 300 from States such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra had turned up for the field day on dragon fruit farming organised by the IIHR at its experimental farm at Hirehalli in Tumakuru district recently.

Increasing visitors

Karunakaran, head of IIHR’s Hirehalli-based Central Horticultural Experimental Station (CHES), says the awareness among farmers about the exotic food crop picked up after the IIHR organised a field demonstration at Hirehalli farm last year in which about 200 farmers participated. “Since then, we have been getting 50 to 100 visitors every week,” he said. Apart from this, more than 5,000 farmers from different districts of the State have visited the dragon fruit cultivation plot at Hirehalli. Scientists from Odisha and West Bengal are also in touch with the Hirehalli station.

Dragon fruit being cultivated on IIHR’s experimental plot at Hirehalli in Tumakuru district.

Dragon fruit being cultivated on IIHR’s experimental plot at Hirehalli in Tumakuru district.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

The fruit suits tropical and sub-tropical climates like that of Karnataka and can withstand temperatures of up to 38 degrees Celsius. Also, it is ideal for places such as north Karnataka where there is water shortage, Dr. Karunakaran said.

Dragon fruit, in demand in niche markets, is rich in vitamin C and comprises betalains, which are beneficial nutrients with anti-oxidant properties. It is also rich in magnesium, iron, calcium, and phosphorous and boosts the body’s immune system, he said.

At present, farmers get ₹150 a kg for the fruit, with the fruit itself roughly weighing around 1 kg. “Dragon fruit is a climber that needs support and hence farmers need to invest around ₹3.5 lakh per acre in infrastructure,” said Dr. Karunakaran, who has developed protocols for cultivation, including support structures. “It is possible to recover investments from the third year,” he said, while pointing out that it is possible to get 5 to 6 tonnes of yield per acre from the third year on.

Karnataka: a leader in dragon fruit cultivation
 

Market tie-up

Dr. Karunakaran cautioned that market tie-up is a must before experimenting with dragon-fruit cultivation. “This is a unique fruit which does not have a market everywhere. Farmers need to make sure of market avenues before taking up cultivation,” he advised. He also stressed on the need to popularise the fruit, especially its health benefits, through fairs, like the ones being organised for the jackfruit.

Some experimental farmers

Jagadish Giri, 47, is a software professional from Bengaluru, but farming has been his hobby and he planted around 1,000 dragon fruit plants in his Doddaballapur farm about 14 months ago.

“At present, I get ₹100 to ₹150 per kg of dragon fruit, and the yield has just commenced. Every week I get ₹10,000 to ₹15,000 and I am confident of earning a revenue of about ₹4.5 lakh this year,” he said. He sells the fruit to malls and shops in Bengaluru and suggests that farmers should not be dependent on any single market as it would make them vulnerable to market fluctuations.

A Hyderabad doctor

Srinivas Rao Madhavan has an MD in general medicine, but he is also one of the prominent dragon fruit growers in the country as he has taken up cultivation of the fruit on 11 acres. He has toured nine countries to study the cultivation of this exotic fruit. He has even set up a firm to offer consultancy in dragon fruit cultivation.

A businessman

Fifty-three-year-old businessman G.C. Reddy from Hyderabad is entering dragon fruit cultivation in a big way on 5 acres at Madanapalle. He is planning to export the fruit to Germany from next year.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 2:55:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/karnatakas-growing-expertise-in-dragon-fruit-cultivation/article28235134.ece

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