Pawpaw, also known as Carica papaya, is a widely grown tree in Uganda mainly for its tasty, succulent and refreshing fruit.
However, it requires following the best proven agronomic practices for the farmers to maximize their yield potential.
Erasmus Mukiibi, a seasoned pawpaw researcher based at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), Namulonge says pawpaw is a very easy crop to plant, matures early (8-10 months) and can give better returns compared to other crops like rice and maize, under good management practices.
He explains that for any farmer to be successful with pawpaw farming, he needs to begin with good disease-resistant and high-yielding varieties. Mukiibi says that there are several pawpaw varieties but he advises the farmers to opt for sunrise, red royale, red lady, victoria red, malkia F1 and cavity special because of their desirable traits like early maturity and good yield (40 – 50 fruits per tree per year).
“Pawpaw does well in both tropical and sub-tropical regions. It requires an optimum mean temperature of 210C – 330C, well-drained loamy soils with a PH of 6 – 7 as well as 1000mm – 2000mm of rainfall per year. The fruit can be grown in almost all the districts of Uganda and can produce 12 – 16 tons per acre per year under good management conditions,” he explains.
Field preparation and planting
“Finely prepared seedbed is desirable. The land needs to be ploughed at least twice to avoid big soil lumps that might interfere with the crop establishment. Pawpaw should be planted at a spacing of 3m between rows and 3m within the rows.
This results in 444 plants per acre. The crop should be planted by making holes of 60cm deep and 60cm wide, thereafter, each of the holes is filled with topsoil together with 20kg of very well decomposed farmyard manure. On the set of the rains, the seedlings are carefully transplanted to the planting holes but preferably during the evening cool hours of the day,” Mukiibi adds.
According to the NaCRRI research reports, 125g of NPK fertilizer is adequate when the pawpaw tree is young. However, the quantity could increase up to 500g when the crop is mature (8 months). The reports further recommend the use of organic manure when the crop is about 6 months at least twice a year.
Solome Makanga, a pawpaw farmer in Buikwe sub-county, Buikwe district explains that weeding the garden when the weeds appear is crucial in maintaining the plant vigor. She also explains that the weeding process can be carried out manually using a hand hoe or by spraying with herbicides. “It is important to always exercise good general field sanitation. There is a need to remove diseased, old and dry leaves that provide a good habitat for pests and diseases,” she adds.
The NaCRRI research report further emphasizes the need of intercropping pawpaw with other crops like beans and pumpkin. “The intercrops can be introduced when the pawpaw crop is about 6 months after planting, so that the pawpaw plant can ably withstand the competition from the intercrops. Intercropping not only helps in improving the soil health of the garden but also enhancing the utilization of the land to maximize on the returns,” the report explains.
According to Mukiibi, pawpaw is affected by a wide range of diseases like; stem end rot, anthracnose, black spot, black rot, Cercospora black spot, phytophthora fruit and stem rot, bacterial canker, bunchy top, ringspot virus, powdery mildew and Alternaria leaf blight.
He recommends rouging of the infected plants as well as spraying with fungicides like Ridomil applied (40g/15liters of water) as well as copper sulphate (60g/20liters of water) biweekly as the best control options against the diseases respectively.
On the other hand, Mukiibi highlights mealybug, scales, fruit fly as the major pests of pawpaw and advises the farmers to spray the affected plants biweekly with Imidacloprid – 17.8% (7.5mls/15liters of water) to control the pests. He however emphasizes the use of preventive measures of keeping away the diseases and pests by employing the cultural methods like removing and destroying the affected plants from the garden.
“As the pawpaw fruit matures, its skin color starts changing from green to yellow. When the yellow color is about 30%, the fruit is ready for picking. However, the sweetness of the pawpaw increases with the maturity of the crop and the fruit. At harvest, only clean fruits without bruises should be carefully picked and sorted on the clean tarpaulin,” the NaCRRI research report explains.
Mukiibi reassures farmers about the ready market for pawpaw within the major city markets of Nakasero, Nakawa, Kalerwe, Nateete, Kibuye, and Wandegeya, Kasubi as well as the other markets within the regional cities of Uganda. He further acknowledges the export market to countries like Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda and overseas. Mukiibi finally reveals that a pawpaw farmer can earn about sh7m in profit per acre in a year when the crop is properly managed.