Organic Papaya Farming – Cultivation, Production In India

Introduction to Organic Papaya Farming

Papaya belongs to the family Caricaceae. Organic Papaya cultivation in India is a profitable and relatively safe agriculture business. Papaya is also known as pawpaw is a delicious fruit rich in vitamin C. Papaya is a tropical fruit and is a highly valuable medicinal ingredient. This fruit is a rich source of antioxidant nutrients, vitamin B, potassium, and magnesium, which are elements that prevent and improve digestive system disorders and heart diseases. Papaya is considered one of the most economically important and also nutritious fruits, being a rich source of antioxidant nutrients like carotenes, vitamin C, and flavonoids; the B vitamins folate; the minerals potassium, magnesium, and fiber. In this article we also discuss the following concepts;

  • What kind of fertilizer do Papaya trees need
  • How do organic Papayas grow
  • What is the best time to plant Papaya
  • Is Papaya cultivation profitable
  • How much it takes for Papaya to grow
  • Is Papaya easy to grow
  • What is the best soil for Papaya

A Step By Step Guide to Organic Papaya Farming in India

Organic farming is increasingly popular, with a rapidly growing global demand for organic products. Organic farming offers considerable benefits over conventional farming systems particularly for sustainable yield, better quality, and health hazard free produce. Fruits are more vulnerable to contamination with chemicals due to the latter’s residual toxicity. Therefore, organic production of fruits is gaining popularity over that of other crop groups. Papaya tree bears fruits round the year and it responds well to organic systems. In almost all the states, the area under Papaya is increasing, and the organic production system in this crop is economically important.

Guide to Organic Papaya Farming in India.
Guide to Organic Papaya Farming in India

Soil Requirement for Organic Papaya Farming, and cultivation practices

Papaya crops can grow in a variety of soils. Though, a rich, sandy loam is ideal for Papaya plantation. Also, it can grow well in alluvial soil which is found along the deltas and river banks. A fertile, lime-free, and well-drained soil is preferred for organic Papaya cultivation.

A neutral to near neutral soil can be used for organic Papaya cultivation. The pH level can be between 5.5 and 7.5. High loamy soil and clay loamy soil, suitable for drainage, is most suitable for this cultivation. Papaya tree does not like cold and wet soil. To avoid root rot make sure that the soil has a good drainage system.

Land Preparation in Organic Papaya Farming

The sandy loam soil with adequate organic matter is important for organic Papaya cultivation. The growing field kept at soil moisture which is necessary for the Papaya plant growth, although dry climate at the time of ripening is good for the fruit quality. Continuous cropping in the same field can result in poor growth and cause the disease problem for Papaya trees. Papaya crop does not like the strong, cool, hot, dry, or salty wind. It is better to produce in sheltered but full sunshine place. Staking and windbreak can decrease the damage to Papaya plants under strong wind.

The organic manure applied as a basal dose must be properly spread and incorporated into the soil during the preparation of the land for sowing. The planting distance of Papaya plants is about 2.5 x 1.6 m to 3 x 2 m. In the high-density plating method, the distance is 1.2 x 1.2 m. Pits of dimensions 60 x 60 x 60 cm are dug and then filled with topsoil mixed with 20 kg of farmyard manure, 1 kg of neem cake, and 1 kg of bone meal. Proper irrigation is done after planting.

Propagation Techniques in Organic Papaya Farming

Propagation is Papaya is through seeds or seedlings. The germination of Papaya seeds takes 3 to 5 weeks. The seeds of Papaya can be directly sown on the land or initially grown in a nursery. The transplantation of saplings into the main area is a limited practice and a seedbed of 3 m length, 1 m width, and 10 cm high is required for nursery planting. The bed is covered with a dry polythene sheet for protection. These saplings are transplanted into the main area after 2 months. Also, propagation can happen through tissue culture. Air layering is also used to cultivate Papaya plants.

Planting Material and Planting Time for Oganic Papaya Farming

The best season for Papaya planting is monsoon (June-July). Also, you can do planting Papaya in spring (February-March) and autumn (October-November).

Papaya Seedling
Papaya Seedling

Papaya crop is commercially propagated by seed and tissue culture plants. The seed rate of Papaya is about 250-300 g. /hectare. The seedlings can be raised in nursery beds about 3metres long, 1metre wide, and 10 cm high. The light irrigation system is provided during the morning times. Then, the nursery beds are covered with polythene sheets to protect the seedlings. About 15 to 20 cm tall seedlings are selected for planting in 2 months.

The pits are exposed to the sun and filled with topsoil along with FYM (farmyard manure), bone meal, and wood ash in the form of mounds. In absence of rainfall, water is added to the pots to settle down the mixture accurately. When the seedlings are 15 to 20 cm tall, the bag is cut open with a razor blade and the seedlings are transplanted in the pits in the evening time. Usually, three seedlings are transplanted 15 cm apart in each pit. Watering is necessary after transplantation for a quick recovery from the transplanting shock.

Spacing between Papaya Plants

A spacing of about 1.8 x 1.8 m. is normally recommended for Papaya. 

Process of Planting Papaya Seeds in Organic Farming

Papaya is mainly propagated by seeds sown in sand beds or the seeds can be sown directly in polythene bags. The soil mixture used is about 50% sand for good drainage, 25% organic manure, and 25% topsoil. The seedlings are ready for transplanting after 2 to 3 months old. The planting distance is about 2.5m x 3m square and the planting holes are about 30cm x 30cm x 30cm. After the holes are dug, some organic matter with phosphate fertilizer and limestone is added to the soil before the seedlings are located in the holes.

Papaya trees are fast-growing, woody, tree-like plants that produce best in temperature levels between 21 to 32°C. The trees prefer full sun and well-drained porous soils that are moist in hot weather and dry in cold weather. Even brief exposure to freezing temperature levels can damage these plants, and prolonged exposure to cold without frost protection by overhead sprinklers will kill the Papaya plants.

Seed Planting Process;

  • The papaya tree is a fairly fast-growing tree and can bear fruits within 12 months.
  • After choosing a suitable land, seed planting is performed. This is done after the end of the rainy or snowy months.
  • First, you have to prepare the soil in a pot with 10 to 12 cm height.
  • Then, use a mixture of dry organic compost, hay, and soil to feel the pot.
  • Plant seed according to planting method of the square, rectangular, or spraying rows.
  • Keep a minimum distance of about 12-15 centimeters away from each row,
  • And 10-15 centimeters of the distance between 2 trees in a row.
  • Water moderately, using the hand.

Planting Papaya from Seeds in Simple Steps;

Check the temperature of your area, if it is above 16°C they will do just fine.

  • Soil pH level needs to be optimum i.e between 5.5 to 6.5, but in case the general soil pH of your area is above this mark it should be less than 7.5. Papaya can tolerate pH level up to 7.5 and in some cases up to 8. But do not sow seed if it is more than this range.
  • Sow the Papaya seeds in-ground or grow bags whichever way you feel comfortable. Papaya seeds need to be sowed 1.25 inches deep and if the seeds are sown in the ground they need to be spaced at least 5 inches apart to allow proper growing space for each seedling.
  • Once the seedlings are 1 to 1.5 feet high they should be transplanted. 
  • Select a location that receives full sunshine, they love full sunshine.

Supplying Nutrients and Organic Fertilization Management in Papaya Farming

Nutrient management mainly organic manures and biofertilizers based on the soil test results. If the dosage of nitrogenous fertilizers is too high the crop becomes too succulent and thus susceptible to insects and diseases. If the dosage is too low, the crop development is retarded. So, the farmers apply adequate for the best results.

Fertilization Management in Papaya Farming.
Fertilization Management in Papaya Farming

A complete fertilizer must be layered around the drip line, and amounts should be increased as the tree grows. A complete fertilizer mainly includes essential plant nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphate, potash, and magnesium. If you’re using organic fertilizer, spread a layer of compost and supplement with nitrogen-rich sources of organic matter such as blood meal, fish emulsion, bat guano, or manure. If tree leaves take on a purplish or reddish cast, then the tree is potentially low on phosphorous.

Papaya crops prefer high soil-fertility. This must be considered when choosing a site. A balanced mixed system with a substantial production of organic material, high turnover, and plenty of soil activity is necessary for a healthy Papaya plantation. Well-rotted compost must be added to each seedling before covering. Then, the compost can be mixed with the excavated soil.

For a yield of about 50 tons of Papayas per harvest, the below nutrients should be added annually per hectare;

Nitrogen (N) – 100 kg

Phosphate (P) – 40 kg

Potassium (K) – 60 kg

In the case of the Papaya crop, soil fertility is also either maintained or improved. Fertilizers, in the form of compost and other methods allowed in organic systems, are not generally required. Feed monthly and adjust based on the plant’s response. They can take fairly hot organic fertilizing used with deep irrigation after warm weather has started. The deficiency in phosphorus causes dark green foliage with a reddish-purple discoloration of leaf veins.

Manuring – Five months from transplanting to first flowering is important for Papaya crop growth. Then, the stem girth attained by a plant just before flowering decides the vigor and productivity of a plant. Fertilizers should be applied at frequent intervals and vigorous plant before flowering, and to maintain its subsequent crop growth.

The importance of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium for good crop growth and yield in Papaya has been realized. A fertilizer dose of about 400g nitrogen, 250g phosphorous, and 400g of potassium per plant per year must be applied in 6 split applications under irrigated conditions, although in rainfed conditions, it can be given in 2 split doses; the first at the beginning of monsoon and second in the next season. If rainfall is well distributed from March to November, then it can be given in 3 split doses. Each plant should be given 20-25 kg of farmyard manure once every year. At the time of fertilization, a sufficient amount of moisture is necessary for the soil. The fertilizers must be well mixed in irrigation rings or basins by a light digging or hoeing. The application of fertilizers must be stopped 6 months before harvesting the crop.

Watering Requirements in Organic Papaya Farming

The water requirement for Papaya mainly depends on the environmental factors of the area like light, temperature, rainfall, wind, and soil type, etc. Also, it differs with the age of the plant. A young plant would need more moisture than the older trees. Because the older Papaya trees have slower vegetative growth. Therefore, the seedlings are irrigated once or twice a week while fruit-bearing trees need irrigation once every 15 days. Older Papaya trees need ample water. Though, they cannot tolerate stagnated water or waterlogging since their roots are shallow and not deep. It results in ‘wet feet’ and lower Papaya fruit yield. That’s why drip irrigation in the Papaya crop is a good practice. During the winter season, Papaya should be irrigated at an interval of 10-12 days while in summer they are watered once a week till the rains begin.’

The watering of Papayas is done through drip irrigation to prevent overwatering. In growing regions that receive regular precipitation, irrigation may be needed to supplement rainfall. In regions where rainfall is limited, growers could need to supply up to 10 gallons of water per tree each day during the fruit-bearing period.

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Organic Pests and Diseases Control in Papaya Farming

The main diseases that affect Papaya crops are anthracnose, powdery mildew, stem rot, and damping off. Waterlogging around the plant roots is the chief reason for rots to occur. Wettable Sulphur, carbendazim, and mancozeb are effective in controlling these Papaya crop diseases.

Aphids, red spider mite, stem borer, fruit flies, grey weevils, and grasshoppers are the insects attacking these plants. Destroying the infected part and spraying prophylactic spray about 0.3% dimethoate would help control them. Sometimes boron deficiency can be a physiological problem with plants when sown in sandy gravel soil in the dry cool season. Immature fruits are covered with the latex and there is a severe malfunction in the Papaya fruits. Then, the fruits get hard and do not ripe easily. To control this problem, the soil has to be supplemented with organic manure. Alternatively, 0.25% of borax is dissolved in hot water and sprayed in the dry season with an interval of about 2 to 3 weeks.

The Papaya crop is susceptible to virus disease, which is spread through an insect vector. The insecticidal sprays are taken against aphids, whiteflies, and sucking pests. Papaya plant diseases like downy mildew, powdery mildew, and stem rot providing windbreaks, well-drained conditions to soil avoiding planting Papaya after Papaya and following a suitable crop rotation keeping the field clean and weed-free are helping to keep the crop in good health condition.

Collar-rot or Foot-rot – It is mainly caused by a soil-borne fungus Pythium aphanidermatum. In this region, the disease occurs at the base of the stems mainly during the rainy season. The Foot-rot fungus attacks the bark and causes swelling, cracking, and rotting of stems, particularly in waterlogged conditions or in extremely moist, sticky soils. The terminal plant leaves drop, wilt, turn yellow, and fall.

Control measures – This disease can be controlled by drenching 6:6:50 Bordeaux mixture or (0.2%) esso fungicide thrice during the season. It can be avoided if the Papaya plants are on well-drained land.

Root rot – It is mainly caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani and Fusarium sp. in the nursery. In the later stages, this disease is caused by Phytophthora palmivora, mostly in the root system.

Control measures – Application of about 100g of lime and 100 grams of copper sulphate in the pits is an effective preventive measure against Root rot disease. Drenching with formaldehyde 2 weeks before sowing can give effective control in the nursery.

Damping-off – This fungus disease kills young seedlings in the nursery stage. The damping-off disease can be prevented by sterilization of the soil of nursery beds with formaldehyde or treating the seeds with Ceresan.

Leaf-curl and mosaic (Papaya ringspot or Papaya mosaic virus) – They are observed during the rainy season when the vectors are active and cause considerable damage. In leaf curl, plant leaves become crinkled and curled; the plants get stunted with small leaf size and do not grow further. The mosaic disease starts as necrotic dots on the plant leaves. Fruits are also affected.

Control measures – There is no control measure for these viruses. The virus affected plants must be quickly destroyed to prevent the spread of these diseases. To check the insect vector, plants should be sprayed with 0.05% Malathion at 10-12 days intervals.

Root-knot nematode – Affected plant shows withering, yellowing, and wilting. Knot like structures appears on the roots mainly under waterlogged conditions.

Control measures – This can be checked by the use of nematicides like Nemagan, and Nemphas, etc in the field.

When and How to Harvest Papaya

Normally, the Papaya fruits are harvested when they are full size, light green color with a tinge of yellow at epical end. First picking could start at 14 to 15 months after planting. About 3 to 5 pickings for one season are taken fetching about 30-35 tonnes per hectare. Suitable grading must be done before packaging. Since the fruits are highly perishable, care must be taken to wrap the individual in paper and finally packed in crates.

The Papaya fruits are graded based on their weight, color, and size. The fruit is a highly perishable nature; therefore the fruits are kept at 29°C and high atmospheric humidity for ripening and color enhancement before packing them. The produce is transported by Lorries or other vehicles to the nearest market and sold there at a wholesale price or through middlemen.

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