Papaya (Carica papaya Linn.), originated from tropical America and is considered as one of most important fruit crops in the Philippines because of its great economic potential. The fruit is cylindrically long, pear shaped or round, it is orange to orange-red, sweet and juicy when ripe. Unripe papaya makes for a good concoction of vegetable stew, salad or pickle. The fruit is rich in Vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, protein, carbohydrates and phosphorous. Papaya produces latex which contains papain – an enzyme that breaks protein. Papain has been commonly of use to the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. Papain is used for cleansing lotions, facial creams and toothpastes.
A study conducted by the University of Indonesia discovered that glycoside, an organic compound that can be extracted from ripe papaya seeds, reduces fertility among men. This breakthrough is being pursued to provide an alternative contraceptive method for men. Furthermore, a new scientific finding reveals that papaya could be an effective remedy for cancer. (Source: Bureau of Agricultural Research, Date accessed 25 March 2014)
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Soil and Climatic Requirements
Papaya can grow on any type of soil that is not poorly drained nor easily dries up. But the most suitable site is one that has light, well-drained soils with rich organic matter, readily available nutrients, and soil pH of 6.0-6.5. The ideal daily temperature for papaya to have sturdy growth is 21o-33oC. Rainfall should be evenly distributed over the entire growing season. A minimum annual rainfall of 1,200 mm is sufficient if soil conditions are favorable and water conservation is practised. The area should be relatively free from strong winds. Windbreaks such as giant ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit) or madre de cacao (Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Steud.) may be planted around the orchard to protect the plants but the papaya plants should be exposed to full sunlight. Papaya plants may grow from sea level to elevations of 2,100 m but lower altitudes are most suitable.
Land Preparation and Planting
Land preparation for papaya orchard is similar to other upland crops. First clear the fields; then plow and harrow alternately about 2 to 3 times to kill weeds and provide good internal drainage. The distance of planting papaya ranges from 2 to 3 meters depending on the variety.
Papaya plants are usually planted by direct seedling in the field. Place 5 or more seeds in each hole; then cover with ¼ inch of soil. When fresh seeds are used, seeds will germinate in 10 to 14 days after planting. Seed germination is better and faster if the gelatinous envelope (sarcotestae) surrounding the seed is removed by means of the fingers. In some cases, seedlings are started in the nursery by sowing seeds in seed plots or individual containers such as in cans or plastic bags.
Sow 3 to 4 seeds per container. Use sterilized soil to avoid nematode infestation and damping-off. Seedlings in the nursery should be grown under full sunlight to produce vigorous and hardy seedlings. Care should be taken not to disturb the root system. Constant watering is essential until plants are well-established. Seedlings are transplanted when there are 3 to 4 leaves.
Thin papaya seedlings in the field 4 to 6 weeks after emergence. Leave only 3 of the strongest seedlings in each hole. Save plants that are spaced far enough from one another to allow minimum competition for sunlight and nutrients.
The second and final thinning in the field should be done as soon as flowers appear. This is usually 4 to 6 months after seed germination. At this stage, leave one tree seedling per planting hole. In plantation where female trees are grown, some pollinating trees of either male or hermaphrodite forms should be preserved during the thinning process. Allow one male plant to grow for every 15 to 20 female trees for pollination purposes.