On the right: red dragon crop in Latina.
"Research started in 1989 with an experimental crop of the yellow and red variety. The positive feedback we received from consumers, who were willing to pay up to 15,000 Liras (the currency used at the time) a kg, proved we were on the right path."
"After a trip to Colombia in 1989 with the purpose of studying the particularities of the species, I have started tests in Latina."
Above and below: red dragon fruit. (Photo by Ottavio Cacioppo)
The fruit is cultivated in non-heated greenhouses with a single autumn harvest for the yellow variety and two harvests (summer and autumn) for the red variety.
The experimental greenhouse in 1995. (Photo by Ottavio Cacioppo)
"After many years, I can say that the major difficulty to tackle is fruit abortion."
Above and below: red dragon fruit flowers. The flower opens for one night only and closes at 10.30 am the next morning. (Photy by Ottavio Cacioppo)
Artificial pollination is in fact used to increase production. Of course more fruit would be produced in a heated greenhouse, but costs would be higher too.
Experiments showed that, if a plant is protected from rain and wind, it can survive at temperatures down to -3°C.
Unripe red dragon fruit. (Photo by Ottavio Cacioppo)
In Colombia there are two harvests per year for a total of 10 kg per plant. In the Latina province, production is of around 6 kg/plant.
Red peel and white flesh dragon fruit (Photo by Ottavio Cacioppo)
In Latina, there are 250 plants arranged on 1,000 square meters. The average production was of 6,000 kg a year.
Yellow fruits - it is the most prestigious variety (Photo by Ottavio Cacioppo)
Yellow fruits. (Photo by Ottavio Cacioppo)
Costs are really high, but greenhouse cultivation is justified by the prices: "currently, red dragon fruit has a wholesale price €6,25/kg, whereas the yellow variety is sold at €15/kg."
Currently tests are being carried our on pink dragon fruit.
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