Thursday, October 20, 2011

Field Mechanization of Dragon Fruit Planting

Large scale dragon fruit plantation in Malacca 

To plant dragon fruits in a large plantation ; there is no doubt mechanization is very  necessary. It is a very important tool to speed up management activities such as spraying of insecticide,weeding, fertilization and so on.However, what is the optimum  size of plantation that need to be considered before machines to be introduced? As machines are very expensive and needs to be  maintenance, careful decision has to be made so that the investment is profitable.Otherwise, you put unnecessary budget that would incur the return.
The size,type and power of the machines have to sought from experts or experience person in order to buy the correct tool. We cannot just  copy or buy from hearsay  what machines are needed. Think twice.
Using boom sprayer to spray foliar fertilizer, insectides and fungicides

Dr.Zainudin inspecting dragon fruit plantation

Horticulture Research Centre Director Tengku Malik explaining something to visitors.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

National Horticulture Conference 2011

The Malaysian National Horticulture Conference (NHC) will be held from 18th to 20th October 2011 in Melaka; 150 km from Kuala Lumpur. This the 3rd NHC so far. See here for more info The three-day conference will discuss matters in horticulture industry in Malaysia with the theme Malaysian Horticulture:Enhancing Production,Enhancing Marketing.Many speakers will be invited  to give talks and views on horticulture. A post-tour conference is to held to dragon fruits farm in Melaka.
I will be presenting a poster entitles "Dragon fruits planting materials:Specifications according to SIRIM". See below

Poster at NHC 2011, 18 to 20 October 2011, Melaka

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Growing Dragon Fruits in India

I had the chance to visit India.Visiting India is not as easy as I thought.You have to get a visa before entering the country. It is exciting for me as this is my first visit there.
I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Chennai which took about  three and half hours. It was raining when I reached there at 10 pm local time. At Chennai Airport  I have to go at least one hour and half for immigration clearance compared to  KLIA for only two minutes.
I have to book hotel in Chennai before departure and it is compulsory.The hotel (3 star) was OK but very expensive RM450 per night (USD150).Mind you.
The next morning we drove to Thirupati via Redhills and  Thiruvallur, passing villages and small towns. I saw a lot of poverty in Southern India where pupils could be seen without shoes to schools, cramped in vehicles and so on. Most of the vehicles had air horns-horning is a must. Unlike, in Malaysia the pupils owned at least 3-4 pairs of shoes per year and transporation is easy.
Roughly, I could see paddy fields, mangoes and  sugar planting areas. Some of the areas were abundant which were not cultivated. As I reached the small town, it was very crowded due to only two-way lane. Shop-lots were very small and not organised.  I saw a lot cattle  lying on the roads with dungs uncleaned. At last I reached Thirupati the capital city of Andra Pradesh.

This city is very big and quite clean compared to Chennai. I saw  agriculture research station, universities and big temples here. I was told the the Tamils always come here to worship and bald their heads.

The climate in Thirupati was a little bit cooler and sunnier. The soil was fertile and it was grown with peanuts before. My mission is to see whether the climate and soil is suitable for dragon fruits growing there in Andra Pradesh. From my observation, dragon fruits is very suitable to be grown there basically the soil is good and not waterlogged. If dought occurs, water could be tapped from groundwater. Also, there was a lot of organic matter from cowdungs.Labour is readily available and there are many areas potentially to be grown. I was told that mangoes price was 20 INR (RM1.40).per kg. and much of the mango areas were not looked properly. Mangoes was not  flowering at that time and fruiting once a year compared to dragon fruits which is flowering  and fruiting all year round.
I could conclude that;
1. Introduction of dragon fruits to India is very potential and profitable business IF provide with good management.
2.Consumers always like to try new exotic fruits particularly if they know medicinal value.
3.Dragon fruits could  bear fruits  very early - one year after planting.
4.The climate is suitable, organic fertilizer, labour is available.
5.Market demand is very huge.

More readings (in Malay version ) at

Some of the pics from my visit. If there are any queries I am happy to entertain ; pls forward your email to  or simply call me at +060123535411.

Mr.Ali showing me the area to be planted with dragon fruits.

Workers in preparation  of concrete poles for fencing

Clay mineral soil suitable for dragon fruits.

Self-made concrete pole

Behind-some of the fruits like papaya, watermelons, sold  in the supermarket

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Integrated Farming With Dragon Fruits in Selangor,Malaysia

Dragon fruit planting using single-pole technique

The farm is about one and half hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, somewhere in Kalumpang, Selangor. This farm planted dragon fruits for about 40 acres .They used to plant dragon fruits one- foot apart using trellis system.The inter row distant was 6 feet. However, they could not make it because for about year the system could support the heavy branches of dragon fruits which was estimated about 40 to 60 kg per plant. They replanted the again using single-pole having four plants attached. It seems that this technique workable.

Discussion with the farmer Mr.Lim about foliar fertilizers and fungicides used.

Fertilization was done both using granular (6:10:30 or 13:10:20) and foliar.Granular fertilizer was given 10-20 gram for every two week  for every pole and foliar was given biweekly plus with Mancozeb. The rate of foliar spray was 1.5 L foliar fertilizer plus 1 pack of Mancozeb (1 kg)  to 100 litres of water. The farmer gave very little fertilizer but very frequent. Disease surveillance was done daily scouted by 2 workers.  

Dragon fruits with agarwood (5 feet tall  2 years old)

Dragon fruits with pineapple

Newspaper cutting showing price of agarwood  grades -Grade A (MYR 25,000 about USD 7,5000 per kg)

The farmers integrated the farm with agarwood with planting distant 5 ft X 5 ft. In Malay agarwood is gaharu. This farmer planted 20,000 agarwood plants intercropped with dragon fruits.Besides, he also intercropped part of the dargon fruits areas with pineapple.

With his initiative, the farmer also built 20 X 100 ft. swiftlet bird house four storey high. Swiftlet industry is booming in Malaysia with govenment support. The bird house is only eight month old and managed to harvest swiftlet nest, however the investment is very high.When the bird house has stabled, the farmer can shake legs. Swiflet nest price at MYR 3,000 (USD 1000) per kg (raw) and MYR 10,000 (USD2500) (cleaned)
Note: USD1=MYR 3.(MYR stands for Malaysian Ringgit)

A four-storey high swiftlet bird house at the back
For more infomation regarding to this please feel free to contact me at .

Friday, March 25, 2011

Technical Visit to Semarang , Indonesia

This is my second visit to Indonesia. My first visit was  two years ago i.e. Jakarta and Bandung. I would like to see their living style,social,culture and landscape in the country. I noticed that Indonesia is a beautiful country blended with many types people of all kinds.Each country has their own strength and niche. I presume that the competition between each other  in this country is much greater  than mine.
Back to my visit to Semarang was a fruitful one where I was brought to see farms around Curuj, Ngebrug and also farms organised by Obor Tani in Wakanarto and Genting.

In Curuj, we visited a 700 acre- clove plantation called Cengkih Zanzibar owned by Pak Budi. During my visit, most of the plants were 10-15 years old  with heigth of 3 to 5 meters. One problem I noticed is picking the flowers  during harvesting. It requires about 3,000 workers to pluck all the flowers during that time in the entire farm. Most of the clove flowers were consumed by the cigarettes company. From agronomic perspectives, the farm should find ways of how to improve production, let say high density planting, mechanization and so forth.

I also visited a distillation unit nearby which extract clove oil. Matured and dried  cloves leaves were brought to the unit then boiled later, then the steam was cooled in a pond and condensed. The oil was separated and collected in containers arranged cascadingly.

There was also  has a dragon fruit which consisted of about 2 hectares in Curuj. The growth of the plants is extremely good with good agro-management and maintenance, however the fruits is still small i.e. 300 gm . What I noticed is that organic fertilization should be increased and given at least once in three month (3 kg) because dragon is a heavy feeder, if  this is not given then flowering and yield decreased. Since this field is free from diseases , then the planting materials can be used as cuttings in other farms. They
should follow the technical specifications in the guidelines which I had passed to them.

I also visited an agro tourism farm in Plantera where many types of fruits were planted. Fruits like durian, longan (mata kucing-Nephelium ), anona, dragon fruits, pomelo, rambutans were planted. We were brought in a tram assisted with their staffs. My observations was that the durians were infected by Phytopthora disease which very common in durians. They have taken preventions using copper fungicides but some branches were still infected. Infected branches or stems should scrapped off and cleaned, then paint with Bordeaux mixture. Organic fertilizer should also be improved.
As far as dragon fruit is concerned, about 30-50% of the farm is infected with diseases.Common disease like bacteria and fungus were obeserved and also yield was low.Stern actions should be taken like increase organic fertilization and foliar

applications as the plants branches were not thick and less green compared from previous farm in Curuj.

For mata kucing or longan, generally the growth is still ok, however I noticed there symptoms of leaf falling, dryness and yellowing. I suspected the roots must be infected by diseases, nematodes or whats not. The infected tree should be uprooted to see what is the real cause of infection.
As for anona, there are plants which is less growth as shown in reduced leaf numbers.Leaf foliar analysis should be done in order to ascertain the problems.

Then, I went to Wakarnoto which is 3 hour journey from Semarang. This is a 50 acre farm will be planted with dragon fruits that will be planted by farmers. ( I don't know where will they get cutting planting materials). The land has been cleaned and pillars will be installed. What I noticed is that nearby trees should be cut as dragon fruits need 100% sunlight. Although the land is fertile but organic fertilization is still needed 3 month once. A reservoir on top of a hill had already been built by Yayasan Obor Tani where there are plentiful of water.


I also had the chance to go to Genting,where a successful  50-acre longan project owned by farmers.The farmers were proud to show their farms. During my visit, the plants were not bearing fruits.We were also shown home-based products like fried-mushrooms made by fellow farmers

Finally, we go to Hortimart a fruit farm owned personnally by Pak Budi. A place where you can eat fruits and lunch. I was given a chance to talk on dragon fruits and share knowledge and ideas pertaining to this industry together with the chiefs, growers there.

I also went to Jogjakarta to see Chandi Borobodur, a world heritage. Besides, I also saw debris of the volcanic ash of Gunung Merapi which erupted a few  months ago and houses which had been damaged very badly.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Technical Visit to a 65-acre Dragon Fruit Plantation In Sibu, Sarawak

I had the chance to visit to one of the biggest dragon fruit plantation in Sibu, Sarawak, East Malaysia. My visit was welcomed by its farm's owner Mr. Yong Ung Tung. The purpose of my visit is a) to observe general performance of the 65-acre farm. b) to identify some problems occurred in the farm and c) to make some remedifications (if any) concerning to my findings.

Here are my findings.

1.The farm is badly affected by soft rot diseases caused mainly by bacteria and fungus. However, the main disease  such as antrachnose has been controlled entirely with good spraying practice with correct chemical application.
2.Farm sanitation is good where all the discarded branches and plant parts which have pruned were thrown away far from the farm. This farm had 20 workers with a supervisor.
3.The farm use fertilization with NPK ratios 15:15:15  which is not suitable for a 6-year plants. This might affect mainly flowering and fruiting.
4.Most of the farm were installed with lightings that is cost MR 4,000 per month only to enhance flowering.
5.There are a lot of weeds and some plants suffered from nutrient deficiency such nitrogen (N).

My suggestions.

1. Fertilization with NPK 12:12:17:2 is recommended and flower hormone is needed to improve flowering and fruiting as well to reduce high lighting cost.
2.Organic fertilizer is needed is to improve tree performance in some areas.
3.Continue with good farm practice and farm surveillance is encouraged for early disease detection.
4.Should the farm is required to sell planting materials, it should follow strictly guidelines recommended by Malaysian Standards (SIRIM).The area should be disease-free and verified.
5.Engage an expert to advise if the farm is to be sustained.

My colleagues Dr.Zainal, Wan Zaki, My self (in red T-shirt) and Mr.Ung Tung

 Mr.Ung Tung,owner of 65-acre dragon fruit farm

General view of the farm

Mr.Kok Peng (Ah Beng,from Penang), Dr.Zainal , Mr.Ung Tung and My Self (in red)
Significant effects of lighting which improve dragon fruit yield.
Product of the farm labelled "Planters Harvest"

Please forward your emails to if you need to know more.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Metabolites Studies in Dragon Fruits (Abstract).

YS Sew1, J Baharom 1, M Yaakob 2 and Z Meon 2

1Biotechnology Research Centre, 2Station Management Centre,
Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Research Institute
MARDI Headquarters, 43400 Serdang, Selangor D.E., Malaysia


Pitayas had gained much interest in society because of its exotic features, attractive colour, nutritional value and pleasant taste. Phenolic compounds and high phytoalbumin antioxidants value of pitayas are believed to prevent the formation of cancer-causing free radicals. However, research on the molecular studies of pitayas is very lacking and gene information of pitayas particularly in regards to their health benefit phyto-chemicals deposited in the public databases is extremely limited. With the aim to enrich genes information and identify genes that associated with secondary metabolism of red pitaya, we have carried out transcriptome study on a local variety of red pitaya (Hylocereus polyrhizus).


Red pitayas were collected from MARDI Kundang Station with different ripening index. Total RNA of red pitaya fruits with 35 days after anthesis (DAA) were extracted and purified to get high quality total RNA. The purified total RNA was then subjected to Solexa sequencing using paired-end mRNA-seq method. The mRNA-seq sequencing results showed that total number of red pitaya paired-end reads obtained was 18,530,028 sequences and total number nucleotides obtained was 1,389,752,100nt. Sequence assembly using Velvet software revealed a total of 106,867 nodes. After the sequence filtering process (set value as >80bp/node), we obtained 62,333 nodes. The homology search on the filtered sequences against non-redundant nucleic acid database (NR) showed that 31,423 nodes with significant E-value≤10-5. It was found that there were at least 97 nodes mapped to secondary metabolic pathways via Blast2Go analysis, particularly the biosynthesis pathways of phenylproparoid, betalain, flavonoid, carotenoid and monoterpenoid.


The identification of genes involved in secondary metabolism and their corresponding biochemical pathways will enable us in harnessing the potential of red pitaya as functional food with optimal level of beneficial phyto-chemicals and also to control the production of those phyto-nutrients through genetic manipulation.

Dragon Fruit Farm In Bukit Mertajam

A visit was made to observe the conditions of two dragon farms in Bukit Mertajam, Penang - red and white varieties. Suprisingly, that both farms were in good conditions meaning that they free from diseases. The yield was about 1.1 ton per ac. per month which is very high. Ex-farm price was good which is about RM5.00 per kg.  Some of the pictures of the farm as below;

The farmer showing his farm and explained some ideas pertaining dragon fruit growing.

 Some of the chemicals using to control pests. Newly blended.
Agarwood trees intercropped with dragon fruits (3 years old) -can not be seen  from far.
Agarwood (gaharu) seedlings ready to be planted .

From my observations, I may conclude that.

1. The sanitation and crop husbandary  was good where diseases and pests surveillance were carried daily.
2. Trained workers is very necessary  where quick action is taken whenever needed.
3. Good input particularly fertilizer quality.
4. Good spraying techniques using boom sprayers to cover most of plant parts.
5. Only reserved visitors allowed. Not opened to all as to control disease and pests .

The farmers was very happy with the farms as he has won twice in the farm competition that was held recently.  I may summarize that the farm could produce quality planting materials as long it follows SIRIM standard.

It is good to know that this farmer also planted agarwood (gaharu) intercropped with dragon fruits. This is done as to increase farm income in the future. Matured agarwood  will fetched up to RM40,000 (fourty thousand)  per kg once marketable after seven years to make perfumes.
Should anyone interested to know more about this farm please kindly email me
We are happy to help you in whatever way we can.