Papaya Cultivation

Papaya or Carica papaya Linn., grows in the Philippines due to it’s tropical climate. The plant has three sexes: male, female, hermaphrodite. The male produces only pollen for the female flowers and do not fruit. The female will produce small, inedible fruits if not pollinated. Commercial papaya orchard has grown hermaphrodite variety for purpose of easy pollination and productivity. Papaya originated from tropical America but in the Philippines, it was one of the most important fruit crops due to its export value and potential.

Papaya is nutrient rich fruit with Ascorbic acid and Vitamin A, protein, carbohydrate, phosphorous, iron, and calcium. Unripe papaya contains enzyme papain that oozes out of the papaya fruit in a form of latex and is traditionally used as a meat tenderizer. Papain is now being used as main ingredient of numerous skin whitening products like lotion and soap, softening of woolens, toothpaste additive, and beer processing. Although uncommon, the leaves can be turned into cigar. The ripe fruit is eaten raw as dessert or snack, and when processed is an ingredient in fruit salads often sold in cans of mix fruits.

Papaya is now widespread and grown in most tropical countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Mexico. Papaya tree grows into rapidly and can start fruiting within three years. It prefers sandy, well-drained soil, as standing water will cause waterlogged roots which might kill the plant.

The Philippines had a total area of 8,647 hectares of planted to papaya with total volume of production of 157,906.79 MT in year 2011. The top producing region is the Region XII with 65,843 metric tons wherein South Cotabato has the highest volume of farm produced papaya of 55,568 in the whole Philippines.

Papaya Cultivation Guide

Papaya are best grown inorganic matter-rich soils. Clay soils which lack  looseness and bad water porosity  is not ideal soil for papaya. The soil must have enough fertility for the papaya to take nutrients from. Papaya can tolerate soils with pH from 5.8 which is mild acidic to 7.0 neutral. Papaya can be planted on soils with are slightly basic (higher pH) by applying chicken compost to improve acidity. For best results, the soil pH must have a soil pH between 6.0 – 6.5. Papaya prefers a warm climate with enough rain for irrigation and soil moisture. An average daily temperature can be tolerated even at noon with enough water in the soil for the plant’s use. A minimum annual rainfall of 1200 mm is sufficient provided soil conditions are favorable and water conservation practices are employed. Rainfall should be well distributed throughout the entire growing season.

1. Land Preparation

Propagation by seeds is the most practical method because seeds are readily available from mature fruits and germination is fast at 3 to 4 weeks . Seeds can be sown in flats of soil, seedbeds or in small containers and allowed to germinate in a partially shade place. The seeds are generally allowed to dry as it makes germination faster. Seeds are sown into the soil with enough soil cover on the seed. When 2 to 3 true leaves have appeared, transfer seedlings into mulches of polyethylene bags, tin cans or any container for papaya seedlings. The seed may also be sown directly in small containers but care must be given as some containers might not have sprouts. Reapply seeds as necessary. When the seedlings has 20 cm height and has 3 to 4 leaves it can be transplanted to the orchard. Land preparation for papaya is similar to other upland farm crops in which fields are cleared , by removing weeds and grasses. Loosen the soil to ensure proper growth of the root system. You may use a tractor or  manual preparation by using plow. The soil should be pulverized and leveled.

2. Transplanting

During rainy season, it is advisable to raise papaya beds to avoid rotting due to roots being waterlogged. Distance of planting depends upon the papaya type. The usual way farmers transplant papaya is to plant papaya trees as close as 3 meters apart and as wide as 5 meters apart. Wider distance of 4-5 meters is implemented in places where the soil is nutrient rich.

3. Fertilizers

Fertilizers are applied to improve soil nutrients.Complete fertilizer or 14-14-14 can be used with chicken manure organic compost. Apply 1 tablespoon per tree if already fully grown. Papaya requires proper sunlight exposure to make food by photosynthesis. During dry season, irrigate the crop by water hose and wet the area below the papaya tree at summer. Repeat irrigating at seven days interval throughout the growing season when there is no precipitation. This will allow the trees to absorb water for growth and fruit development.

4. Soil cultivation 

Soil cultivation can be done once every 3 months along with fertilizer application to aid in root recovery. This is necessary to loosen the soil around the roots and to cover the exposed portions. Weeding must also be done simultaneously with cultivation to have healthy and green papaya tree. Weeds need to be eradicated since it takes away nutrients.

5. Pest and diseases

Pest and disease can be controlled. Pests includes papaya fruitfly, two-spotted spider mite and aphids. The papaya fruitfly is has yellow body with black markings.Use pesticides to control them and observe the signs of infestation. Apply pesticides when the sky is clear to avoid washing away of the pesticides. Practice crop rotation to break the cycle of disease and its proliferation. If left uncontrolled, the papaya will turn yellow and drop to the ground due to papaya fruit fly infestation. The two-spotted spider mite is a 0.5-mm-long brown or orange-red pest mite which have needle-like -sucking mouthparts and feed by piercing the plant tissue, commonly at the underside of the plant leaves. The papaya fruit or leaf turn yellow, gray, or brown. The severity of spider mites infestation when not taken care of can cause the rotting of the papaya fruit.

Papaya Harvesting

Harvesting is the most enjoying part of the farming and cultivation. It is a simple operation when papaya trees are short and the fruit can be reached by hands. Due to multiple harvesting is done as the tree matures, papaya trees grow older and harvesting is done with the use of ladder. It is a hard and time-consuming part of harvesting. The first fruit to be harvested starts on the 7-8 months after planting. Ripe and ready fruits showing has a tinge of yellow at apical end. Carefully place the gathered fruits on a basket, picking bags, galvanized containers or pails for secured containment. Allow fruits to mature more fully to develop better flavor. Advance of ripening improves sweetness and flavor, but should be sold on time to avoid over-ripening. The papaya plant will keep on fruiting for more than 3 years but gradually, the papaya output of a tree declines as it grows older. Old trees grow slower and produce lesser fruits. The productive life span of papaya plantations end after 3 to 3.5 years. A papaya plantation can produce is 35 – 40 tons per hectare  of fruits.

By Kyle

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