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New Dragon Fruit Varieties To Delight Growers And Consumers

The first new varieties from a joint New Zealand – Viet Nam dragon fruit breeding programme are set to be launched to the global marketplace.

Plant & Food Research in New Zealand and the Southern Horticultural Research Institute (SOFRI) in Viet Nam have been working together since 2013 to breed new varieties of dragon fruit with excellent grower and consumer characteristics. VentureFruit™, T&G Global’s IP management and commercialisation company, has joined the collaboration with exclusive global commercialisation rights to the first three varieties from the programme.

All three new varieties are red-skinned, with a sweeter, more aromatic flavour than current varieties, and with a crisp dense texture. The varieties vary in flesh colour, one with the traditional white flesh most commonly seen, a unique pink-fleshed variety, and a dark, appealing red-fleshed variety. The varieties are believed to be the first canker-tolerant dragon fruit to be commercialised; canker is a highly destructive disease of dragon fruit, killing plants and causing visible damage to fruit.

Viet Nam is the largest dragon fruit supplier in the world and the fruit is highly sought by Asian consumers, despite being native to Central and South America (where it is known as pitaya). Viet Nam produces around 1 million tonnes of dragon fruit a year, and increased its production area from 10,000 hectares in 2010 to more than 50,000 hectares by 2018.

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The new varieties have been developed as part of the New Premium Fruit Variety Development project, supported from 2013 to 2021 with funding from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The collaboration between New Zealand’s Plant & Food Research and Viet Nam’s SOFRI and Sub-Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Postharvest Technology (SIAEP) focused on breeding new varieties and improving fruit quality through new growing practices, postharvest handling and storage technologies to better meet overseas market requirements.

The breeding programme is now funded by Plant & Food Research as one of its Technology Development Missions.

VentureFruit’s™ General Manager, Morgan Rogers says the launch of the new varieties is an example of the close horticultural ties between New Zealand and Viet Nam.

“These new varieties demonstrate a strategic and innovative approach between all partners involved to create new dragon fruit genetics that taste better and deliver huge grower benefits in terms of canker tolerance. We are looking forward to working with local Vietnamese growers and sharing the knowledge and techniques developed by SOFRI and Plant & Food Research on growing systems. This allows for these unique new dragon fruit varieties to be grown optimally to achieve higher yields, as well as improving production and providing higher returns for growers.”

Initially, the new varieties will be commercially developed in Viet Nam for export markets. Evaluation trials are planned in other potential production regions, including an ongoing trial at Plant & Food Research’s Kerikeri Research Centre in the sub-tropical northern region of New Zealand.

Plant & Food Research CEO David Hughes says the launch of the new varieties shows the impact possible through a successful international development programme.

“Being able to support people through international development programmes is really rewarding for our scientists, as they can see how their knowledge can directly impact individuals’ lives. However, the launch of these new varieties also demonstrates that these programmes can have big impact not only at a regional level but also internationally, building networks and skills to transform sectors. We’re really excited to bring two of our long-term collaborators together and support the ongoing growth of the dragon fruit sector, not just in Viet Nam but also elsewhere.”

Plant & Food Research Scientist Dr Satish Kumar, lead breeder from Plant & Food Research on this breeding programme, says the appointment of VentureFruit licensee for these first three varieties from the programme is a significant milestone for the breeding teams of Plant & Food Research and SOFRI.

“These new varieties of dragon fruit are the result of a strong collaborative effort by the breeding teams at Plant & Food Research and SOFRI, bringing together key areas of strength and expertise from both. We are thrilled with the appointment of VentureFruit as exclusive licensee to take these varieties out to the market”.

Fruit from the new varieties is expected to be available to consumers in 2027, with targets of 250 hectares planted by 2030.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Ambassador to Viet Nam, Tredene Dobson, says the launch of the new varieties to the global market place is a great continuation of the successful 7-year New Premium Fruit Variety Development project.

“We look forward to seeing the growth of Viet Nam’s dragon fruit export market and a positive impact on farmer incomes. Seeing New Zealand’s International Development Cooperation programmes develop into commercially sustainable partnerships is a satisfying example of strong New Zealand – Viet Nam bilateral cooperation and shows the value of our development partnership with Plant & Food Research.”

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