[28 September/Radio NZ]

Scientists from New Zealand believed they had found a way to double dragonfruit production. This would be achieved through changing the way the plants are trained. Plant and Food Research scientists worked in Vietnam for five years as part of an aid programme to improve returns for dragonfruit growers. Head of Plant and Food Research International Development & Aid, Suzie Newman, said the project was entering an exciting phase and would be scaled up and rolled out soon. She added it was a great commodity for small growers and was very profitable. The Vietnamese dragonfruit industry was worth USD1 billion. Around eighty percent of the crop was exported. Ms Newman noted it looked like a mop head and was from the cactus family. It was now recommended that growers use T-bars and train the cladodes to them. This is similar to the system employed by kiwifruit orchards. They anticipated production could double with the new system. New Zealand scientists and their partners also found simple ways to control a new dragonfruit disease.