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The pawpaw fruit, one of the common and well loved tropical fruits, is in high demand in the country both for consumption and industrial uses. And one good thing about the fruit is that a prospective investor does not need to break the bank to go into its cultivation as it is not a capital intensive venture. With less than N80,000, a farmer can start a sizeable pawpaw farm in Nigeria.
The market for paw is huge and is readily available as it is a healthy fruit filled with nutrients including vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. It is very low in calories and contains no cholesterol. Ripened pawpaw is a soft, fleshy, easily digestible fruit with a good amount of soluble dietary fibre, which facilitates normal bowel movements, thereby reducing constipation problems.
It is as well one of the fruits with the highest vitamin C content, more than that in orange or lemon. Research studies have shown that vitamin C has many important functions like free radicals scavenging, immune boosting, and anti-inflammatory actions. Pawpaw is also an excellent source of Vitamin A and betacarotene.
In addition to its health benefits to the consumer, pawpaw is in great demand in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries for the production of cosmetics and drugs. The fruit is also important in the food processing industry. If the farmer’s target is to sell to food processing companies, it is necessary to starting seek out the companies before the fruits ripen.
There are varieties of pawpaw including the homestead, pink solo, kapoho solo, JS.22 and the dwarf. Pawpaw bears fruits from the seventh – 11th months after planting. In going into pawpaw farming, it is advisable to seek guidance from other experienced and professional growers for better results and yields. Here are some guiding steps:
Although pawpaw may be planted directly in the orchard, considerable savings can be made on seeds and labour by using transplanted seedlings raised in the nursery. Raise seedling from seeds extracted from ripe pawpaw fruits. Scrub the seeds lightly with sand to remove the gelatinous covering. Mix the slurry of sand with water; the bad seeds and gelatinous covering of the seed will float. These should be removed. Drain the good seeds and spread out in the shade to air dry. Sow the air-dried seeds in trays, poly bags or any container which has rich moist topsoil by watering every other day. The seeds should germinate within two weeks and be ready for transplanting within eight to 12 weeks after sowing. Seeds meant for transplanting in May should be sown in February/March.
Site the orchard on a well-drained soil. Although loamy sand is preferred, pawpaw can tolerate a wide range of soils provided it is not waterlogged. Plough and harrow the orchard site and plant the seedlings in holes of 15cm – 20cm deep and 2 x 2m spacing. In large planting areas, after planting 10 rows, leave a corridor of 4m to allow movement of equipment. Plant three or four seedlings per hole when using a dioecious variety, to ensure a high female population. Transplant the seedlings when the rains have stabilised.
Homestead plants set fruit three months after transplanting and ripening starts eight months after transplanting and lasts three months. Harvest fruit at “blush” stage and avoid bruising. About 40 – 70t/ha can be obtained since yield declines after second harvest. Plants should be cut down after three years, a break crop can be planted before the old trees are cut down on the same site and used again. Establish another orchard two years after the bearing orchard to ensure a continuous fruit supply.
Apply 50g of NKP 15-15-15 per plant three weeks after transplanting and at monthly intervals up to six months after transplanting. Optimum yields have been obtained using 45g N/plant and a 1:2 N: P ratio. However, application rates should be based on soil test results in order to make maximum use of the fertilizer application.
Weed control is very important especially during the first three months after transplanting. This may be achieved by hoe weeding, slashing at monthly intervals or by the use of the herbicide, Paraquat glyphosate, at 4 – 6 or 3kg active ingredient per hectare.
Dry season irrigation is important for pawpaw. For newly transplanted seedlings, apply 3litres of water per plant twice a week, For flowering plants, apply 5litres twice a week, and for bearing plants apply 15litres of water per plant once a week.
Intercrop pawpaw, planted at a spacing of 2 x 2m, with early maturing plants like okra, leafy vegetable, melon, sweet potato or sweet corn. These plants should mature within three months or poor yields will be obtained due to shading of pawpaw canopies.
Pest control is very important. This can be achieved by applying a teaspoonful of Furadan per seedling, three weeks after transplanting and rotating the orchard. If grasshoppers invade the plot, spray Gamalin 20 15mls/10 litres of water.
- Use recommended variety
- Use recommended spacing
- Apply fertilizer as recommended
- Irrigate in the dry season
- Harvest at ‘blush’ stage
Additional material from Extension Research Liaison and Training Unit National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Idi Ishin, Ibadan.