If you want to make money by farming pawpaws, it is important to know some general characteristics   and   requirements.

Pawpaws have a flat  root  system and they  do  not  require  very  deep  soil.  But  because  pawpaws are  not  tolerant  of  stagnant  water,  the soil  must  be  well  drained.  Drenching that  lasts  longer  than  48  hours  may cause  the  death  of  the  plants, so be careful.  On  the other  hand,  if  dry  periods  are  longer than  2  months,  irrigation  is  necessary.

But a drier period at the time of ripening is beneficial for fruit quality.

Pawpaw does not like strong wind. It should be grown in sheltered places, but in full sunshine. It may need staking and windbreaks for proper growth and fruit production.  Wind breaks should be spaced at distances of about 10 to 20 times their height.  For  example,  a  tree strip  that  is  4  metres high  can  protect a  strip  of  land  that  is  40  to  80  metres wide. Grow wind breaks such as silver oak (Grevillea  robusta),  leucaena,  gliricidia, but also mango or avocado.

Continuous cropping in the same field may result in poor growth and cause disease   problem   to   pawpaw   trees.

After a  3-5  year  period  of  use,  the area  cultivated  with  pawpaw  should be  used  otherwise  for  some  years.  A second cycle with pawpaw can then be initiated.  Large areas of sole pawpaw are not recommended. Pawpaw can be combined very well with cocoa and bananas for example, or be planted together with slower growing trees like mango and citrus. Short term crops such as corn or vegetables may also be considered.

The pawpaw plant has male, female, hermaphrodite (bisexual flower)  and some  other  complex  forms.  Typically, the  fruits  from  female  plants  have  a short  shape,  while  fruits  from  hermaphroditic plants are longer.

Seeds

You  will  need  20  to  30g  of  seeds  per acre,  if  two  thirds  of  the  seeds  germinate   and   most   of   the   seedlings are   planted   successfully.   Seeds   are collected from the ripened fruit and spread out on mats or wooden planks to dry in the shade.  They should be sown within one week.

In order to harvest own seeds of a certain variety, it is essential to remove any unidentified male plants in the proximity of the plantation. Otherwise they will fertilize the flowers of your  female  plants,  and  the  seeds  of these  fruits  will  bring  forth  cross-variety  trees  (and  fruits)  with  unknown properties.

Purchased seeds:

If you want to be sure to have trees of the desired variety, it is best to buy seeds.  They must be from a dependable source and of good quality.  They should be sown as soon as possible

Sowing and germination

The seeds are sown  1-2  cm  deep.  The optimum temperature for germination is  21-27°  C.  It  takes  1  to  4  weeks  from sowing  to  germination  depending  on the temperature.

Pawpaw can  be  sown  directly  or at  tree  nurseries.  Prepare the  nursery about 2 months before the actual planting time. This is the period the seedlings require to be ready for transplanting.

Direct  seeding:

Before  you  sow  them directly,  work  a  mixture  of  ash,  composted  poultry  dung  or  compost  into  the soil. This helps the trees to establish quickly and  to  dominate  the  system within  a  few  weeks.  Sow  3  to  5  seeds per hole to compensate for poor germination,  virus  infection,  insect  damage and removal of male plants at the time of flowering.

Pot or bag sowing:

The substrate consisting of tilled clay and sand soil mixed with compost should be placed into the pots  or  Polyethylene  bags  around  2 weeks  before  sowing.  Sow  2-3  seeds per pot.

Nursery beds:

Sow the seeds in raised beds. The soil should be fine and mixed with  generous  amounts  of  decayed farmyard manure or compost. Sow the seeds  1-2  cm  deep  and  2-3  cm  apart. Rows  are  spaced  at  15  cm.  Sprinkle the  seed  beds  daily  with  a  watering can except on rainy days. Avoid water logging  as  this  may  lead  to  fungal diseases  and  “damping  off”  of    the seedlings.

When the seedlings are 2 to 3 weeks old,  they  may  be  sprayed  with  a  fungicide  solution.  Dissolve  1g  of  copper oxychloride in 1 litre of water.

Transplanting

Transplant  the  seedlings  when  they are  about  20  cm  tall,  or  up  to  40  cm  if they  are  grown  in  larger  containers.

They  can  be  planted  year  round  if irrigation  is  available.  If  the  soil  is  not well  drained,  a  40-60  cm  high  bed  is required.

Drill  planting  holes  about  45cm  in diameter  and  30cm  in  depth.  Mix  the soil with plenty of well rotted compost for   planting.   The   plants   and   rows should  have  a  distance  between  2m and  3m  in  the  end,  but  this  should  be co-ordinated  with  the  requirements  of any additional crops. Usually, you will want  to  uproot  virus-infected  plants and  excess  male  and  female  plants later, so the distance between plants at transplanting may be about 1m.

The seedlings should be well watered one day  before  transplanting.  Transplant  them  on  a  cloudy  day  or  in the  late  afternoon  to  minimize  transplanting shock. The roots of pawpaws consist  of  a  tap  root  and  hair  roots in  the  upper  parts.  Make  sure  not  to damage  the  hair  roots  during  replanting.  Take  care  not  to  plant  too  deep; otherwise collar-rot disease may affect the buried part of the stem. Then water immediately after planting.

Thinning out

When  the  first  flower  buds  appear after  about  3  to  5  months,  the  seedling’s sex can be determined and plants should be thinned out. For pollination of  female  plants,  10-20%  hermaphrodite plants or 1 male per 25 females are required.  If  hermaphrodite  varieties are  planted,  only  virus infected  plants and excess plants are eliminated.

Nutrition

Pawpaws  prefer  very  fertile  soils  with high   organic   matter   content.   This should  already  be  considered  when choosing  a  site.  Pawpaw  is  a  heavy feeder  and  has  a  continuous  demand for nutrients. Increased nutrient uptake is  observed  after  flowering.  For  fertilization,  use  mature  and  composted animal  manure  at  a  rate  of  2  to  5  kg per  plant  and  per  year,  plant  teas  and  compost.  A  sufficiently  thick  layer  of mulch is very beneficial and especially important in dry seasons.

Weed control

Mulch  the  bed  with  rice  or  sugarcane straws or any other organic material  like  hedge  cuttings  within  a  few days  after  transplanting.  This controls weeds, soil  erosion  and  water  loss, and adds organic matter and nutrients.

Weeds should be frequently and lightly removed at  a  young  stage.  Be careful when weeding as the plant has shallow roots.  Cut down  mature  weeds  to  use for mulching, and remove grasses with their roots intact.

Tips for the maintenance

  • Diseased and dead plants need to be removed and composted.
  • Remove the side shoots of the stem.
  • Cut back all bushes and young trees that loom over  the  pawpaw  after  6-8 months.
  • Remove fruits which are poorly pollinated, malformed or pest-infected.
  • Support the plant with stakes when bearing heavy fruits   and   during stormy seasons.

Pawpaw  may  live  as  long  as  15  to 20  years,  but  it  is  profitable  only  for about 3 years. As the tree grows taller and  older,  the  fruits  become  sparser, and  they  are  borne  at  greater  height on the trunk. The growth slows down after 3  years,  and  fruits  and  leaves diminish  in  size.  Remove  the  plant at  this  stage,  as  it  will  be  uneconomical  to  maintain  it  any  longer.  A good  strategy  is  to  plant  other  trees on  papaya  plots  and  to  plant  new papayas  where  free  plots  appear  on the  farm,  or  where  old  trees  (other than pawpaw) were removed.

COST AND RETURNS FROM ONE ACRE

Number of seedlings in one acre at a spacing of 6ft*9ft 800-900 plants.

For 800 plants.

Item description Unit cost (800) Sh Total cost Ksh
Manure One bucket per hole @30 24000
Holes Digging, transport of manure to the hole, mixing and planting @30 24000
Seedlings Certified @50
Fertilizer N.P.KC.A.N @70@70 8001500
Pesticides Entire season 5000
Fungicides Entire season 5000
Water Entire season 20000
Management farm manager, (Weeding, splaying etc) @7000 for 9 months 63000
Misleneous 7000
TOTAL COST 150000
Return per year.
75 fruits per plant150 fruits per plant With 800 plantsWith 800 plants @30@30 1.8 million3.6 million

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