Vine cacti (Hylocereus species): an emerging fruit crop

Noemi Tel-Zur [Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel]

Vine cacti of the genus Hylocereus, which are native to the tropical regions of northern South America, Central America and Mexico, constitute a group of hemi-epiphytic plants bearing exotic edible fruits. The fruits, known as pitahaya or dragon-fruit, have a sweet, juicy flesh with black small crispy seeds. Practically unknown three decades ago, today these crops are occupying a growing niche in the exotic fruit markets worldwide. They are currently cultivated in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, the United States, Israel, Thailand, Australia, China and Vietnam, the last of which is the largest exporting country. Traditional methods of cultivation have changed considerably in the new cultivations areas as technologies have been developed to increase productivity. The newly developed agricultural practices, which have created a “revolution” in vine cactus cultivation and yields, include the use of vertical supports to allow climbing and shading to reduce the damage caused by irradiance and extreme temperatures. In addition, manual cross pollination is frequently applied due to the self-incompatibility system of several cultivars and the lack of natural pollinators in areas beyond the species’ native habitats. Despite the advances that have been made, further intensive research and development are required for the domestication and commercial production of these fruit crops, particularly in arid zones, where their high water use efficiency is yet to be exploited. This review addresses the key findings on the agricultural development of Hylocereus species as fruit crops.

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