Large dragon fruits not toxic

Abu Sufian

Dragon fruit is considered a super food that became popular in Dhaka eight to ten years ago when it was affordable only to the wealthy and upper-middle class. At that time,

big-size dragon fruits—red and white varieties—were imported from Thailand.

Later, several farms were set up in the country’s southeast and northern districts, and prices were lowered significantly in 2019-2020.

Nowadays, dragon fruits are also available in rural markets, and the prices remain stable between Tk150 and Tk400,

considering the size ranges from 150-600gm, while imported ones are sold at prices between Tk500 and Tk800. In both cases, the red variety has a higher demand among people.

Experts say the soil and climate of Bangladesh are very suitable for dragon fruit cultivation. Dragon fruit can be grown in almost any type of soil free from flooding. At present,

there are commercial dragon fruit gardens in Dhaka, Mymensingh, Gazipur, Tangail, Pabna, Bogra, Rajshahi, Natore, Nilphamari,

Narsingdi, Chittagong, and Chittagong Hill Tracts, and its cultivation is expanding in other parts of the country.

People are now planting dragon fruit in roof gardens and backyards.

According to agronomists, dragon fruit is a promising fruit for Bangladesh. In 2014, its yield was 66 tons, but the production reached 25,700 tons this year.

On the other hand, many commercial farms are using plant growth regulators (PGR), widely used in developed countries, to increase the size of apples, cherries and pears.

The most popular PGR is gibberellic acid, which plays a vital role in increasing the size of red dragon fruit.

Some people are making video content and sharing it on YouTube, falsely claiming that local dragon fruit is getting big through the use of toxic and harmful chemicals. They claim that using tonics to increase the fruit’s size harms health.

In July, the presence of pesticides in dragon fruit was tested in the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) laboratory, but no harmful pesticides were found in it.

Usually, the plants produce fruits from April to May until the arrival of the winter. Some farms apply artificial lighting for each plant to continue production in cold weather.

Dragon fruit plants are a type of cactus. They are usually 1-1.5 metres tall. The colour of the peel turns red from green when ripe. Shells are dark pink in colour, red

and white and juicy. The seeds of the fruit are very small, black and soft.

Recently, BARI has developed a variety and named it BARI Dragon Fruit-1.

According to agriculturists, dragon fruit originated in South America and later spread to Vietnam around 100 years ago.

Other countries successfully producing dragon fruits are Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, China, Israel, Mexico, and Australia.

This fruit, rich in medicinal and high nutritional value, can be eaten raw and ripe. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Experts say dragon fruit is a complete food that meets people’s needs, like rice and bread. This fruit is a good substitute for rice for diabetic patients.

Doctors in Taiwan advise diabetic patients to eat this fruit instead of rice. This fruit plays a helpful role in regulating blood insulin in diabetic patients.

Its shell is slippery and rich in fibre, relieves constipation and helps cure piles and fistula.

Besides, this fruit plays a role in controlling cholesterol and blood pressure and reduces body fat. Dragon fruit supports eye health,

digestion and metabolism. This fruit helps build strong bones, smooth skin, healthy teeth and body tissue, heal wounds,

repair broken bones, prevent heart disease, cure cancer, and reduce the risk of stroke. Dragon fruit boosts the body’s immune system,

and its anti-oxidants avoid wrinkled skin and delay the body’s natural ageing process. This fruit paste protects hair health and prevents hair fall.

Canadian agricultural guidelines refer to the use of PGRs and mention how this material needs to be used in farming and what results can be obtained if it is used.

It states that PGR is a chemical used to increase plant growth, remove excess fruit or alter fruit maturity. This PGR acts like a phytohormone.

It affects the physiological processes of the plant. PGR is also used to cultivate vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes and onions in Africa. After Africa, the use of this chemical is more in Europe.

The director of the Year Round Fruit Production for Nutrition Improvement Project of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Md Mehdi Masud,

said the misinformation about dragon fruit in the market is not correct at all because PGR is used in all countries of the world to increase fruit and flower.

“One of these regulators is gibberellic acid. It has 136 types. Among them GA-3, GA-4 and GA-7 are used for fruit growth. Hence,

there is no health risk in using phytohormones. In 2014, GA-3 was used to increase the size of dragon fruit in Malaysia.

They have used it to varying degrees for research. It was observed that the size of used fruit increased twice as much as that of unused fruit. That means C-grade result can be converted to A-grade,” he said.

Scientists first discovered the benefits of PGR in the 1930s. Since then, in different countries, especially in 2022, two scientists from Vietnam have mentioned the same results as the Malaysian research in the journal.

For this reason, phytohormones are used to grow kiwi, apples, cherries, and grapes in developed countries of the world.

The DAE official said: “If our farming brothers use this benefit of science to increase the size of the fruit, there is no health risk.

It is a natural and organic substance. A potential outcome cannot be ruined by a few overzealous YouTubers.”

 

 


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