Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya (Hylocereus spp. and Selenicereus spp.), has been identified as a promising fruit in the Asia and Pacific region. FFTC initiated a market survey of tropical fruits in Southeast Asia in 2014. When dragon fruit was identified as a promising fruit in the region, FFTC started to conduct a series of workshops. Since most researches of new emerging crops are operating in isolation from one another and research projects are often on limited budgets and with no mechanism for information sharing. To address this concern of lack of mechanism for information sharing, in 2015, FFTC, SOFRI and the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) worked together to organize a workshop in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Based on the recommendations, the problem of pests and diseases was identified as the top issue confronted by growers, and there is a need to form a regional network to develop effective integrated pest management (IPM) strategies for pitaya. In 2016, FFTC, the Mekong Institute (MI), and the New Zealand Plant and Fruit Research (PFR) conducted a regional workshop on the “Control of Dragon Fruit Diseases” held in Khon Kaen, Thailand. One of the important recommendations was to form a collaborative research and development (R&D) on the control of dragon fruit diseases and pests in the region.
Based on this recommendation, in 2017 FFTC proposed a 3 year dragon fruit proposal to MOFA, Taiwan, which aims to form a dragon fruit collaborative research network on the control of dragon fruit diseases and pests in Southeast and South Asia. It will focus on areas of improvement of different countries with dragon fruit production and forge an agreement between dragon fruit experts to create a mechanism for information sharing. To facilitate the formation of regional dragon fruit network, FFTC, MI, PFR, and TARI formed an organizing committee and held an “Organizing Committee Meeting for Dragon Fruit Pest and Disease Research Network Initial Workshop” at FFTC, Taipei, Taiwan, 27-30 November 2017. After discussion, two suggestions as following 1) The “Dragon Fruit Regional Network Initiation Workshop & Steering Committee Meeting” will be held in Taiwan 22-27, April 2018; 2) The whole value chain spectrum for dragon fruit is included. In 2018, FFTC, TARI, and PFR organized a workshop on “Dragon Fruit Regional Network Initiation Workshop & Steering Committee Meeting” and steering committee meeting in April 23 to 26 in Taipei and Taichung. This workshop focuses on the whole value chain spectrum for dragon fruit which includes the topics of New Varieties, Crop Management, Management of Pests and Diseases, Pre and Postharvest Management, and Quarantine and Marketing. In the steering committee meeting, the experts reach a consensus that FFTC should take the lead in this dragon fruit network and if the funds are available, the Vietnamese expressed their willing to host the next dragon fruit regional network meeting.
On the September 9-11, 2019, the workshop entitled on “The Dragon Fruit Network: Marketing and The Whole Value Chain” was held at SOFRI, Vietnam, and a dragon fruit network (DFNet) steering committee meeting was held and composed by workshop speakers. During the meeting, four groups were formed: 1) breeding, germplasm exchange and production; 2) postharvest handling; 3) plant protection; and 4) marketing. Each group has elected a group leader. The group members have agreed to help in information sharing, developing collaborative research programs and preparing joint proposals for research funding.
This project started in 2017 and next year will be the third year of a three year project. The initial three year proposal is to get the seed funding to start up the network. The purpose of this network is to set up a platform for forming research team to come up with research proposals and to apply for research funding from international funding agencies. In the third year, the network will be strengthened and to improve the functions of network.
The project initially aimed at research and development on the control of dragon fruit diseases and pests in the Southeast and South Asia. The first project workshop and steering committee meeting held in Taiwan in 2018 recognized the complexity and interlinked issues along the dragon fruit value chain, and various technical needs and problems voiced by the partner countries. The project expanded its scope from the control of diseases to the full spectrum of the value chain with the intention to foster information exchange and set up a platform for dragon fruit experts to propose project ideas and proposals for funding. The third year of the project aimed to strengthen the network and improve its functions. Main tasks implemented in the 3rd project year included (1) manage the DFNet platform, (2) organize the DFNet workshop and steering committee meeting, (3) publish a dragon fruit book, and (4) prepare a phase II proposal for funding.
DFNet website/platform was launched in December 2018. The website contains 137 articles and 68 news reports related to dragon fruit research and industry. Information on the website is open access and searchable by year, country and topic (variety, crop management, postharvest, pests and diseases, quarantine and marketing, processing, nutrition). About 6,370 people from 120 countries visited the website with the highest number of visitors coming from the USA, India, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam. One hundred and seventeen people registered to download and receive DFNet information. DFNet includes 23 voluntary international expert members whose expertise was grouped into: breeding, germplasm exchange and production (5 members), postharvest handling (6), plant protection (8) and marketing (4). Four group leaders were elected during the 2nd year Steering Committee Meeting (SCM). They actively participated in the 3rd year project activities including organizing the workshop, SCM discussion, and phase II proposal development.
The 3rd DFNet workshop “Dragon Fruit Value Chain for Global Markets” and SCM was held on 22-23 September onsite at the National Chung-Hsing University and online at the Webex virtual meeting room. About 300 people registered for the workshop including 100 participants onsite and 200 online. Live streamed videos of the two-day workshop were broadcast via FFTC-Facebook. TARI at headquarters and Fengshan branch and COA-AFA were the key partners for the DFNet project and workshop, providing FFTC with technical backstopping. The workshop invited 12 speakers, 4 moderators, 4 DFNet group leaders from Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, to discuss (1) Dragon fruit export and import – practices, challenges, and country experiences, (2) Good agricultural practices, quality standards and quarantine inspection for international markets, (3) Nutritional and functional traits, value addition, processing properties, and consumer preferences, and (4) Success stories, and public and private partnerships. The 2nd day workshop program was devoted to a 2-hr SCM discussion on Phase II development and 1.5-hr video presentations from three dragon fruit farmers, breeders and value addition programs in Taiwan. The workshop was successfully concluded by an address from Dr. S Chang.
A one-day field trip was organized with TARI-Fengshan on 8 September to showcase various dragon fruit cultivation and management practices in Taiwan (organic, open-field, net-house, and grass cultivations and Global G.A.P. certified orchard) and approaches to integrate diverse stallholder farmers to deliver stable, high quality, safe and healthy products for food industry and consumers (KK Orchard and Homemakers Union Consumers Co-op). Guests from several diplomatic mission offices (New Zealand, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, and US), COA, MOFA, NTU, TARI, DARES were invited to join the trip.
The project conducted three workshops in project years and collected most updated information on dragon fruit. About 20 papers from workshop proceedings were selected, revised by authors and passed through a peer-review process for book publication, expected to be accomplished in December.
Preparation of the Phase II project proposal is underway. DFNet group leaders and key partners were consulted. The core-capacity and missions of FFTC, scop of the funding, and recommendations from previous workshops and SCMs are taken into considerations in preparing the proposal.
DFNet group leaders and members who participated in the SCM were interested to continue to serve for the DFNet. The conscience of the Phase II project direction was reached during the 3rd SCM and recommended:
Continue with the DFNet platform, with additional strengthening with core- and volunteer-based international experts, establishment of a helpline linked to international expert volunteers and demonstrations of key technologies along the value chain for domestic and international markets.
Agree on the proposed project components of (1) knowledge management, (2) key DF technology and technical service identified for demonstration, (3) online/ onsite workshops, forum/ field trips conducted or facilitated, and (4) project monitoring, reporting and evaluation. In addition to the technical information, market information should be collected and included in the DFNet database.
Agree and include the proposed technology and services (1) Global/ regional G.A.P. (2) Postharvest handling, quarantine treatment and cold storage, (3) farmers to processors programs (processing and value addition), (4) farmers to consumer programs (e-commerce), (5) consumer-oriented evaluation and promotion of dragon fruit (branding, health benefits and international promotion) for demonstrations.