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How Farmers Cultivated Vietnam’s Iconic Nightscape

The bird’s eye view of Vietnam’s most populous city has left many dazzled and perplexed by the confetti-like lighting across its farmlands.

Vietnamese dragon fruit farms are lit overnight during off-seasons
In order to meet consumer demand, dragon fruit farmers light up their fields overnight, as seen in this dazzling patchwork across the Vietnamese farmland. Left Credit: TikTok/@brad..stewart1572 Right Credit: Shutterstock/EugeneEdge

After departing on a night-time flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Melbourne, Australia, a man traveling above the countryside witnessed a bizarre but beautiful sight: Vietnam’s farmlands spotted with countless cells of light.

Naturally, TikTok user Brad Stewart was mesmerized, albeit confused, so to get some answers, he implored his viewers for any insight into the phenomena.

Sure enough, several of his viewers had the answer.

So, for anyone who has not read the original post’s comments, the secret is at the source of each light: there is a dragon fruit farm lit up from sundown to sunrise.

Dragon fruit farming

Typically, dragon fruit plants begin flowering as early as May to June and bear fruit as late as December.

Being a tropical plant, it can thrive in poor soil and with little water compared to other cash crops. The problem comes from the amount of light necessary to make it profitable to grow.

Before, the shorter days of the off-season would relegate harvests exclusively to fall and early winter.

However, by supplementing the orchards with artificial light overnight, farmers can essentially trick the crops into thinking it is still summer, allowing farmers to harvest dragon fruit year-round.

Generally, this is achieved by running electrical wires above the crops, hanging lightbulbs throughout at regular intervals and protecting the wiring from water damage.

While electrical tape could be used for waterproofing, YouTube user Engineer to Farmer says it is not ideal for long-term use.

“Tape will come off, and then it will become waste, [but] this plastic bottle, this regular thing, you can do it, do it once and then do it again,” Engineer to Farmer said.

Measuring the dragon’s hoard

Now, as anyone who’s seen a light show can tell you, the more lights you use, the more clarity you can give your shapes.

So, given the sharpness of the farms from the air, one can begin to fathom just how much product the industry generates with all that light.

Currently, Vietnam is one of the world’s leading exporters of dragon fruit, with the bulk of their product coming from the province of Binh Thuan, just east of Ho Chi Minh City.

According to Hortidaily, Binh Thuan utilizes over 50,000 hectares, or more than 123,552.7 acres of farmland, for dragon fruit production.

Compared to the rest of the country in 2019, Binh Thuan alone produced about 52.82% of the local area’s dragon fruit and 55.11% of the national output.

Down, but not out

Until 2019, Vietnam was regarded as the world’s leading exporter of dragon fruit, with China as its biggest customer.

However, due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a rise in competition from its neighbors, Vietnam no longer corners this particular market.

Just last March, VNExpress reported China outproduced Vietnam by 200,000 tons, yielding 1.6 million tons of dragon fruit.

Now that China can grow its own dragon fruit, Ngo Tuong Vy, the vice director of Chanh Thu Export and Import Fruit Company, said the only way for Vietnam to secure the market is to strive for higher quality fruit.

Since the shakeup, the Vietnamese government has taken steps to not only improve their agricultural production but also establish the country as the world’s top producer by 2050.

To achieve this, Vietnam is planning to increase available farmland by 10-15% a year. And since dragon fruit is a prioritized cash crop, this means those dazzling lights will continue to spread across the countryside for the foreseeable future.

Written By

Southern California, born and bred. I earned my bachelor's from Cal Poly Pomona, but I first got my feet wet at Citrus College after graduating from Bonita High School. I love learning about the world and sharing my findings. When I'm not doing that, I'm either chipping away at my gaming backlog or catching up on my reading.

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