Papaya cultivation in India is a very profitable and relatively safe agriculture business. Papaya can be cultivated for vegetable, fruit, latex and dry leaves. Discover how to start papaya farming in India and make profit.
Papaya plant: origin and properties
Papaya also known as “Carica papaya” is a tropical fruit having commercial importance because of its high nutritive and medicinal value. Originally from Costa Rica and South Mexico, it is now widely cultivated worldwide. Globally, India leads the world in papaya production followed by Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Indonesia, Peru, China, Thailand and Philippines. Being a highly productive crop and easy to grow papaya is cultivated widely as a kitchen garden in India.
Papayas are semi-woody, evergreen trees. . Papaya plant grows straight up to 16 to 33 feet tall. They branch only when there is a damage at the apex of the stem; otherwise they are unbranched. The leaves are shaped like a fan and have a long stalk. The flowers are dimorphic and have 5 petals. The stamens of the male flowers are fused along with the petals whereas the female flowers have contorted petals with a superior ovary. The petals are attached loosely at the base of the flowers. They usually open at night and are pollinated by moths. The fruit varies in shape from oblong to spherical and it is orange colored when ripe
How to grow papaya tree
These varieties can be divided into 2 broad categories:
Growing papaya from seeds
Growing papaya from seeds is the easiest, cheap and most successful method. Plants raised from seeds produce fruits of varied shapes, sizes, taste, colour, etc.
Vegetative propagation of pawpaw using tissue culture can result into superior plants with certain traits, e.g., resistant to pathogen attack, production of high yields etc. However, this method is rarely used because it is expensive.
Raising Seedlings:The young papaya plant likes a bright, warm location, with a high humidity of 60% or more. From a height of about 15 cm, it requires a sunny spot. In warm summers, a wind-protected, sunny outdoor location is best – the papaya thrives in direct sunlight. Rain, wind gusts and cool weather, on the other hand, endanger the fruit. In winter, keep the papaya plant in a warm, sheltered place. Seeds can be sown directly in the field or first raised in nursery beds, in polythene bags, containers etc. Select seeds from a controlled pollination and dry them. The outer layer of the seed coat can be removed.
Soil for Papaya Plantation
Papaya can grow in a variety of soils. However, a rich, sandy loam is ideal for papaya plantation. It can also grow well in alluvial soil which is found along the deltas and river banks. However, it cannot grow in shallow soils or soils that do not let water drain off easily. A neutral to near neutral soil can be used for papaya cultivation. The pH can be between 5.5 and 7.5.
Papaya is intercropped with crops like coconut, peanut, pineapple, jackfruit, coffee, etc. in India. They are also planted as fillers for litchi, guava and mango. This is mainly because they stay on field for 2-3 years.
How to care for papaya trees
Watering and fertilising
The papaya plant needs to be watered regularly to maintain soil moisture but be careful to avoid waterlogging. Water less in winter. Keep the humidity above 60% all year round. It is not necessary to fertilise your papaya in the first two weeks following germination as the seedling receives enough energy from the seed’s endosperm. After that, feed the papaya once a fortnight. For the first two years, a half dose of fertiliser is sufficient
Diseases and pests
Papaya plants can be damaged by diseases like powdery mildew, a fungal disease that is easy to recognise with its white or grey patches of fluffy spores. An unpleasant infestation of spider mites (Tetranychidae) can also weaken the plant.
Destroying the infected part and spraying prophylactic spray like 0.3% dimethoate would help control them.
Maturity, Harvesting & Post-Harvest Handling
Papaya plants start flowering 5-8 months after planting and fruits are ready for harvesting approximately 2 months after flowering stage. Maturity however depends on the variety. Harvesting is done by cutting off the fruit from the tree.
When the fruits are fully grown and start developing a tinge of yellow color at the apex, it is time to harvest them. Another indication of harvesting time is the latex. Once the latex start turning watery instead of being milky, the fruits must be harvested. Not all papaya varieties turn yellow on ripening. Some turn yellow while others remain green even when fully ripe.
Fruits should be handled carefully to avoid bruises which could create avenues for entry of storage pathogens. The harvested fruits should be washed in order to remove any substances which could affect its shelf life.
Bruised or fruits with any damages should not be stored together with the good ones. Ripe fruits are rich in vitamins and other nutritive elements and are commonly used for desserts or processed into other products.
Papaya cultivation does not require too much hard work. It is a versatile crop and can be cultivated for vegetables, fruits and latex, even the dry leaves has market value as raw material for medicine. Ripe fruits are rich in vitamins and other nutritive elements and are commonly used for desserts or processed into other products.
The economic life of papaya lasts for a maximum of 4 years. However, farmers do not extend its life beyond 2-3 years as from the 3rd yes production decreases. Good farm management and timely care can increase papaya production to a great degree.
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