BARI has been experimenting for two years to produce dragon fruits during all seasons by artificially lengthening daytime
The usual dragon fruit season runs from April to October when the duration of daylight is 12 hours or more per day.
But from now on, the fruit lovers of the country can enjoy the fruit all year round thanks to the creativity of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI).
Dragon fruit is cultivated in different Asian countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, and was introduced in Bangladesh around 10 years ago.
The research institute has been experimenting for two years to produce dragon fruits during all seasons by artificially lengthening daytime through electric lighting.
According to BARI researchers, dragon fruit trees do not bear fruits during winter due to the shorter length of daylight. However, when researchers applied different amounts of electric light from 4pm to 10pm during winter and created an artificial daytime-like environment, the trees bore flowers in winter as well.
Principal Scientific Officer of Chattogram BARI Dr ASM Harunor Rashid said: “We experimented with different amounts of electric light of 100 watts and 32 watts on the dragon fruit trees from afternoon to night from December last year.
"The experiment yielded positive results on February 9 when the buds bloomed," said Dr Harunor. "We have named it 'BARI-1 Dragon Fruit', and now everyone can enjoy the fruit all year round.”
The dragon plants usually flower overnight, with blooms wilting by morning. The pod-shaped flower buds look like elongated green pinecones. They rely on nocturnal pollinators, such as moths and bats, for fertilization.
Dragon fruit, also known as Pitaya, is a relatively long-lived perennial. A dragon tree can bear fruit within one year of planting and it can continue to bear fruit up to 25 years.
According to nutritionists, the fruit is rich in numerous nutrients, including Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, fibre, and antioxidants. It helps control diabetes and lowers cholesterol. The fruit also helps prevent asthma and arthritis.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), the fruit is now being cultivated on more than 494 acres of land in the country’s Natore, Pabna, Rajshahi, and the hilly districts of Chattogram areas.
As many as 1,600 trees can be planted on around 2.5 acres of land and each fruit weighs up to 500 grams. Each kilogram of the fruit is sold at Tk400-500.
According to the horticulturists, the dragon fruit saplings must be planted in an open field so that they are exposed to direct sunlight. To maintain the upright growth of the plants, concrete columns are used for their support. Immature plant stems are tied to these columns and a round frame is set up over the columns for balanced growth.