By Umar Nsubuga
It is not surprising that an enterprising farmer like Twaha Kakooza zeroed on passion fruit-growing.
Passion fruits can be grown on a very small piece of land. The fruit can also be grown anywhere.
Apart from being less capital-intensive, passion fruits also fetch a higher price on the market.
A farmer can grow hybrid varieties or the local breed. Local varieties have a better scent than hybrids. However, the advantage with hybrid is that it will last more years than the local variety because it is not susceptible to root and collar rot diseases.
Hybrids also produce more fruits, which is why commercial farmers like Kakooza choose them. Local varieties are also less capitalintensive as they do not require wires for constructing beds on which the vines creep.
On the other hand, hybrids need these beds. Passion fruits are mainly grown from seeds, which can be bought from a farm supply shop or better still, the seeds can be got from a healthy passion fruit.
A fruit with a dark purple colour is a sign that it has good seeds. After drying, the seeds are planted in a nursery bed with soil mixed with compost manure. In the first week, the seedbed should be covered with mulch to provide warmth, vital for germination.
But later, a shelter is erected out of leaves to provide a shade for the nursery bed. The shelter should be made in such a way that it allows free circulation of air and the bed must be watered regularly.
After germinating, the seedlings should be put into polythene bags, but farmers should ensure they do not over-water the seedlings as this might cause root rot. After one month, the seedlings should be transferred to the garden.
But before transferring them to the garden, holes of three by three feet should be dug a month earlier and manure put in them. A spacing of eight by eight feet should be followed while planting the passion fruits.
One should avoid leaving a depression at the core root of the plant as this may result in water logging and hence root rot. A trellis made from logs and reeds should be constructed in the garden and strings or wires on which the passion fruit vines can attach themselves and climb on the trellis also put in place.
Passion fruits begin to flower at six months and a farmer can begin picking ripe fruits six months after flowering.
One should pick only the fruits that have fallen on the ground, but if the demand is high, harvest the mature purple fruits. To increase the shelf life of the fruit, harvest with its stock.
Six hundred passion fruits can be planted in an acre and a farmer can harvest three to six sacks of fruit per week from an acre if all goes well. Under good management, passion fruits can last four years.
During this period, a farmer will be picking fruits at regular intervals. The average price of a sack is between sh300,000 and sh550,000 in most markets in the city.