Each tree can give as many as 40 fruits per year
To grow an acre of pawpaws, a farmer needs between 500 and 700 seedlings. Each good seedling costs sh1,500.
This means that a farmer spends between sh750,000 and sh1,050,000 on seedlings. After six months, yields will start. On harvest, each tree can give as many as 40 fruits per year. 40x500 equals 20,000 fruits. At a farm gate price of sh1,000, this gives sh20m.
Pawpaw plants grown from seed produce fruits of different shapes, sizes, colour and even taste. Vegetative propagation of papaya provides a solution to most of these problems. The clone is selected for higher productivity and good quality fruits, besides agronomic qualities, such as dwarfism, for easy harvesting and good resistance to diseases.
Planting holes of 2x2x2ft are prepared with one bucket of compost mixed in with the dugout soil and returned around the plant. Firm the soil and water liberally. Add mulch around the young plants. The farmer can choose to grow the crops conventionally or do organic farming.
Transplants must be watered regularly until they are established. Field spacing is in the order of 3mx2m to 2.50x1.60m, giving densities of 1,667 and 2,500 plants/ha respectively. Thinning to one female or one hermaphrodite plant per hill is done when the plants reach the flowering stage.
In the absence of hermaphrodite plants, one male plant per 25-100 female plants is retained as a pollinator.
Pawpaw grows best when planted in full sunlight. However, it can be planted as an inter-crop under coconut or as a cash crop between young fruit trees, such as mangoes or citrus. Low growing annual crops, such as capsicums, beans, onions and cabbages, are suitable good intercrops.
The stage of physiological development at the time of harvest determines the flavour and taste of the ripened fruit. The fruit matures at nine months after transplanting.
The appearance of traces of yellow colour on the fruit indicates it is ready for harvesting. Fruits harvested early have longer post-harvest life, but give abnormal taste and flavour.
The fruits also tend to shrivel and suffer chilling injuries when refrigerated. The fruit is twisted until the stalk snaps off or cut with a sharp knife. Yields per tree vary from 75 to 150 fruits annually, giving 35-50 tonnes of fruit per ha per year. The pawpaw plantation can be productive for over 10 years, but the economical period is only the first three to four years. It is, therefore, advisable to renew the plantation every 4 years.
Compiled by Joshua Kato (editor, Harvest Money) and Oxfarm Farm (growers of pawpaws)