JHENAIDAH: Experimental dragon fruit farming has brought smile on the faces of grassroots farmers in six upazilas of the district this season.
Sources said the fruit cultivation is expanding fast across the district as it is more profitable. Now the farmers of the area have shown more interest to grow the fruit on a large scale.
Sources said some farmers have been growing the fruit since 2015 with the assistance of local agriculture offices.
“I have been cultivating dragon fruit on two bighas of land over last two years,” said farmer Tariqul Islam of Kagmari village under Kotchandpur upazila in the district.
“I have decided to cultivate the fruit commercially”, he further said.
Easy cultivation process, low cost and high market price have encourages many unemployed youths to grow the fruit and most of them have attained self-reliance.
Dragon can be harvested within 17 to 20 months after plantation the sapling if the weather condition remains favourable.
Agriculturist Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Additional Deputy Director of Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), said prospect of dragon is very much bright in the region as it has started gaining popularity both at farmer and consumer level for its high commercial and nutritional values.
“We provide all sorts of input among the farmers to make the farming programme a success”, he added.
Farmers are cultivating dragon, a delicious but non-conventional fruit in Bangladesh, along with some other high-valued fruits in the district for the last couple of years.
Number of commercial growers of the cash crop is gradually increasing as they are getting lucrative price of their produce in the markets.
Harunur Rashid, a farmer of Kotchandpur upazila in the district, has set an instance of becoming successful through dragon farming in the area.
After getting technical support from local horticulture centre, Harunur Rashid initiated the farming from 2016. Already, he has started getting fruit.
Now, there are 500 dragon plants in his orchard.
In the local markets, the high valued fruit is being sold at Tk 300 to Tk 350 per kg while in posh markets of Dhaka it is being sold at Tk 350 to Tk 400. But, the price is beyond purchasing capacity of the commoners. More than 250 demonstration plots of the cash crop were established in six upazilas of the district.
Integrated Quality Horticulture Development Project (IQHDP) of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) is imparting necessary training to the farmers on making the dragon farming more profitable and sustainable.
The plant is nothing but an evergreen cactus, which reaches up to 1.5 to 2.5 metres high with leafless thin vine-like branches. It needs support to hold the vine upward. It reproduces from seeds and from branches (cuttings).
But preferable to grow from branches because growth of dragon plant from seed germination is found to be comparatively slower.
Compost in loamy soil is favourable for growing. Over-watering should be avoided as it may cause fruit-splitting, flower-dropping, yellowing of the plants, and slow shoot development.
Regular mulching around the plants is also important along with providing dynamic lifter and dolomite every alternate month (100 g per plant). The plant blooms only at night, which can affect the process of pollination. In such a case, its growth may be encouraged with the hand pollination technique.