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.