PEST-INFESTED. A dragon fruit is infected by a pest in Ilocos Norte in this undated photo. Dragon fruit growers in the province are seeking help from the government to mitigate the problem. (Photo courtesy of Mildred Dacuycuy)

LAOAG CITY – Several dragon fruit growers in Ilocos Norte on Friday expressed concern about a growing pest infestation in their plantations this harvest season.

Mildred Dacuycuy, operations manager of REFMAD dragon fruit farms in Barangay Paayas, Burgos, Ilocos Norte, said fruit diseases like anthracnose and canker are threatening their harvest.

Anthracnose, caused by a number of Colletotrichum species, is one of the major diseases affecting dragon fruit plants by damaging their stems, flowers, and fruits.

Meanwhile, dragon fruit canker, caused by the fungus Neoscytalidium dimidiatum, kills the plant's branches and weakens the plant until the infected area breaks off.

“These pests are causing severe blemishes to our dragon fruits and it is greatly affecting our production,” said Dacuycuy.

Dacuycuy and other dragon fruit growers in the province have already sought the help of the Department of Agriculture, as well as scientists from the University of the Philippines (UP) to further investigate and study the pests attacking their farms lately.

“Some scientists from UP Diliman have taken samples in various dragon fruit farms here and we hope they can help us manage this problem,” she said.

In Currimao town, another dragon farmer Agnes Asuncion said she used to harvest tons of dragon fruit at her farm but this year’s harvest was very minimal.

Like Dacuycuy's dragon fruit farm, Asuncion said she has observed many blemished and rotten fruits at her farm.

“The inside looks good but its surface is taken over by red-orange blemishes,” she lamented.

In the meantime, the Ilocos Norte government has been helping the affected farms to process their dragon fruits into wine.

But due to the high cost of sugar, which stood at PHP4,500 per sack, the local winery is also affected. (PNA)