Overcoming dragon fruit diseases in the farm. Zainudin Haji Meon (Ph.

D) Horticulture Research Centre MARDI Head Quarters Serdang. Introduction The cultivation of dragon fruits in Malaysia has made its niche in the fruit industry locally. Nearly 1000 ha. had been planted with red variety (H. polyrhizus ) however, disease problems drew much attention by growers nationwide that hit their farms which caused a lot of damages and yield reduced. It has been reported that bacterial and fungal diseases are common in dragon fruits which resulted in stem and collar rots namely caused by Xanthomonas campestris, Phomopsis, Oidium and Dothiorella. Other disease include Erwinia penteagglomerense, Helthimosporium and Collectotrichum. 'White spots' disease on dragon fruits branches was mystical disease. Early observations showed no fungus or bacteria- like diseases detected. The hypotheses is that the pathogen attack or damage only when there were punctures or small holes made by insects. Therefore, the disease came in later once the tissue ruptured. It is not easy to find the vector because it very small or minute to be seen with our naked eyes. One of the ways to overcome such problems is to use of quality and disease – free cuttings through standard planting materials. A standard has to be introduced as to safeguard and protect farmers and growers alike from losing their investments due failure in planting materials performances by nursery producers. A working group has been setup to formulate such standards in order to gather information regarding planting materials production. This includes scope, definitions, references, agronomic practices etc. This standard will be used in future as basis for the production of planting materials. Basically dragon fruit are planted three types of planting materials i) bare cuttings, ii) rooted cuttings and iii) cuttings in polybags. One of the most important criteria in selecting these cuttings is that it must be true-to-type taken from accredited mother plants in the field. For nurseries to produce standard planting materials certain procedures has to be followed. a) the farm should be free of pest and disease

b) Cuttings taken from the mother plants should at least mature for one year. c)The size of vascular bundle in the cuttings should be at least pencil-size (5-10 mm). d) The cuttings should be treated with fungicides before planting e) The colour of cuttings should be dark green. f) Cuttings should be dry and kept in clean standard boxes before sent to farms. g) An accredited body to confirm the authenticity of the planting materials. Besides the use of good planting materials, farm management practices should also be at par. This includes that ;     Farms should be cleaned from weeds as it become hosts to many insects vectors like trips and mites. Formative pruning should be carried as to produce at least three new shoots. Newly emerged water shoots from stems should be discarded. When cuttings are planted, it should be as near as possible to the pole or stake and tight. Plant canpony should not too compact , open-center pruning is encourage as to produce good ventilation. After pruning been done, all diseaseda and discarded branches should destroyed and burnt; they should not be left lying in the farms as this might caused pathogen built up. Weeding should be done carefully as not to cause scorching on the succulent stems. Attach a funnel-like nozzle to avoid weedicide drift during spraying Regular surveillance should be carried out in the field as to observe particularly disease and white spots on stems or branches. Any irregularities should be taken with immediate action.

Conclusions Quality and disease–free planting materials is essential in the cultivation of dragon farms. The introduction of planting materials standards would safeguard and protect growers alike from losing their investments due failure in planting materials performances, besides good agro-farm practices and management.

Cuttings should be treated with fungicides and dried before send to farms.

Some of the common diseases caused by fungus and bacteria that affected dragon fruits. Infected branches should be pruned and discarded

Open-enter pruning allows good ventilation.

Plant with compact plant canopy should be avoided.

Pruned branches should be buried or destroyed.

A good dragon fruit farm.

Weed control should be carried carefully as to avoid stem scorching. Farms should be clean weeded.

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