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New Commodity Development

Assessing the Performance, Water Efficiency & Economic Viability for Pitahaya (Hylocereus spp.) for Commercial Production in Ventura & So. California

Researchers: Ramiro Lobo, UCCE-SD, Gary Bender, UCCE-SD, Jose Fernando De Soto, UCCE-VC, Cheryl Wilen, UCCE-SD, Steve Koike, UCCE-MC, Jose Aguiar, UCCE-RC, Ben Faber, UCCE-VC, Greg Douhan, UCRiverside & Pat Nolan, SD County Ag Commissioner.

Pitahaya or dragon fruit (Hylocereus spp. and Selenicereus megalanthus), referred to as pitahaya for the remainder of the document, is the name of a vining cactus and the fruit it produces. Pitahaya can be a profitable alternative for growers in Ventura and other Southern California Counties to replace less profitable crops they currently grow. Previous research efforts have demonstrated that pitahaya adapts well to field growing conditions in Coastal Southern California counties, from San Luis Obispo to San Diego County. Interest among growers, particularly small-scale producers looking for profitable alternatives, has increased and so has the acreage planted to this crop. However, limited research based information forces growers to make decisions under uncertainty, which makes pitahaya cultivation an expensive and risky venture. Critical research issues have been identified (including variety adaptation, pest & disease management, irrigation requirements, trellis systems, genetic identification of varieties and the effect of controlled environment) and will be addressed to help pitahaya growers be successful. In addition, information about economics, cost and return analysis, and post-harvest management are also important and will be investigated. This project will help sustain agriculture in Ventura and other coastal counties of California by addressing these research issues that are critical for pitahaya to become the viable, profitable alternative that growers in the region need. A detailed progress report highlighting the results to date is appended at the end of the project proposal.