Papaya

The papaya, papaw, or pawpaw is the plant Carica papaya, one of the 22 accepted species in the genus Carica of the family Caricaceae. It was first domesticated in Mesoamerica, within modern-day southern Mexico and Central America. In 2020, India produced 43% of the world supply of papayas.



Papaya is also considered native to southern Florida. The papaya fruit is slightly sweet, with an agreeable musky tang, which is more pronounced in some varieties and in some climates than in others. A ripe papaya will be aromatic and give slightly to gentle pressure. The flesh of ripe papayas is juicy with a buttery consistency. Papaya picked unripe and green is called “green papaya”. Green papayas have a sour taste.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

up to 30 feet


Width-Circumference (Avg)

about 5 feet


Approximate pH

6.5 - 7.0


Growth Nutrition of Papaya Tree


Heavy doses of manure and fertilizers are required for papayas. As the plant matures, the size of application needs to increase correspondingly. It's been noticed that nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium go a long way when it comes to promoting growth and realizing better yields.


Types and Varieties of Papaya


Three types of plants are recognized based on flower type:

  • Female - Female plants always produce female flowers. If no male or hermaphrodite plants are nearby to provide pollen, female plants usually fail to set fruit. Unpollinated female plants occasionally set parthenocarpic fruits, lacking seeds.

  • Hermaphrodite - Hermaphrodite plants may have male flowers, hermaphrodite flowers, or both, depending on environmental conditions and the time of year. Hot, dry weather may cause suppression of the ovary and the production of female-sterile (i.e., male) flowers. This accounts for occasional seasonal failure of hermaphrodite plants to set fruit. Male flowers on hermaphrodite plants are borne on short peduncles. Hermaphrodite plants tend to produce selfpollinated seeds, which result in relatively uniform progenies.

  • Male - Male plants are distinguished by their long flower stalks bearing many flowers. Usually they do not produce fruit, but on rare occasions there is female expression in the flowers, and they may set fruits.

Different Varieties of Papaya


Mexican Red/Yellow Papaya


This variety is large in size with sweet, rose-colored pulp. The yellow ones are much sweeter and have yellow flesh. They’re available throughout the year and reach up to 6-12 inches in size.


Kapoho Papaya


This type of papaya is a Solo fruit with a sweet taste and has a yellow flesh. It is native to the Puna district of Hawaii in which most of their papaya trees are cultivated. This variety was introduced in Hawaii in 1911. The fruit has an average weight of up to 1 and a half pounds.


Hortus Gold Papaya


Is a papaya variety from South Africa. The papaya fruit has a beautiful bright yellow skin and the trees produce heavy yellow fruits that weigh 3-4 pounds. This cultivar is one of the biggest types in the papaya industry.


Guinea Gold Papaya


This variety of papaya came from western Austria. The fruit is a bright and brilliant peel color, with yellow flesh and a pear-like shape. This papaya fruit can grow around 2-3 pounds and may take 15-18 months to get ripe.


Samba Papaya


This is the latest cultivar introduced in the market. The fruit is oval in shape with a yellow-green spotted grind. The flesh is dark orange in color and is slightly sweet and pulpy. It is one the most nutritious fruits in the world. It is rich in beta-carotene and a good source of riboflavin and folate. It contains 212 varieties of amino acids and is good for digestion.


Hawaiian Sunrise Papaya


This is a popular type of papaya also known as Strawberry papaya. It tastes like berries, melons, and peaches. Hawaiian sunrise papaya is an alluring light green skin. The flesh color is pink and orange. It also has a shallow seed cavity which makes them easy to remove.


Hawaiian Sunset Papaya


This cultivar originated in the University of Hawaii and is a dwarf variety. Compared to sunrise papaya, it has a smaller fruit size and has a longer shelf life. The horizontally cut papaya is similar to a star.


Bettina Papaya


Bettina cultivar is an easy to grow papaya tree that bears round fruits usually weighing from 3-5 pounds. Its flesh is sweet and has a few seeds. This papaya variety is largely grown in Queensland, Australia.


Waimanalo Papayas


These types of papayas were developed 1960 and were introduced to the public in 1968. It bears fruit when very short and continues to produce fruits for a couple of years. This solo papaya has a yellow flesh and can weigh 22-32 ounces. This is also a fast-growing plant that can produce fruits in a span of 9-10 months from the time the papaya seed was sown. This dwarf variety of papaya originated from Oahu, Hawaii is a good source of Vitamin C.


Kamiya Papaya


This variety was also developed at the University of Hawaii. When a plant virus threatened the potentiality of the papaya, the school developed this cultivar. Its fruit has a yellow orange flesh, has a sweet flavor, and has a smooth texture. Kamiya papaya also has a high sugar content.


Oak Leaved Papaya


This variety is native to the Andes Mountains of Western South America. It bears an oval-shaped small fruit similar to acorn squash that grows from 3-4 inches long. It has a sweet pulp flesh and its seeds are also edible.


Coorg Honey Dew


The Coorg Honey Dew is an oblong-shaped papaya fruit that has a yellow green and thick flesh. It is a well-known selection from Honey Dew called Madhu Bindu. These cultivars are native to India.


Peterson Papaya


Peterson is originally from Queensland, Australia. It also has yellow skin with green blotches. The dark orange flesh has a sweet, mouth-watering taste.


Royal Star Papaya


Royal star is another new member of the papaya family. It is originally from Texas and a hybrid of Mexican red. The papaya features deep orange skin with sweet and juicy pulp.


Tainung Papaya


This variety is also famous as Formosa papaya. It is a hybrid of Sunrise papaya and weighs around 3-4 pounds when ripe. Tainung grows in an elongated shape with pink or light red sweet flesh.


Growing Papaya Tree


Climate and Site

  • Papayas grow best where the year-round temperature averages between 70°and 90°F. Papaya is very frost sensitive; temperatures below 29°F will damage and may kill the tree.

  • Plant papaya in full sun; in partial shade the fruit is not likely to sweeten.

  • Plant papaya in a warm spot where there is plenty of sun and heat. Choose a south-facing spot against a wall that reflect heat when possible.

  • Avoid planting papaya where there is a constant breeze and avoid planting in low spots that collect cold air. Wind can damage the fruit or topple the tree.

  • Papaya grows best in sandy, well-drained soil. Papaya trees will not survive water-logged soil for more than a day. Where the soil can be damp, plant papaya on a mound to ensure good drainage.

  • Papayas prefer a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.0

Papaya Pollination

  • Papaya plants grow in three sexes: male, female, and hermaphrodite. Some trees produce only male flowers and so can never bear fruit; some produce only female flowers and require pollination to bear edible fruit; some have both male and female flowers and can self-pollinate.

  • The sex of papaya can change during its life; this seems to be triggered by drought and variables in temperature. The tendency to produce male flowers seems to increase at high temperatures.

  • Hand pollination is one way to ensure pollination and fruit set.

  • Fruits from female trees are rounder and thinner-walled than fruits from hermaphroditic trees.

Papaya Yield

  • A papaya tree can produce as many as 100 fruits in a growing season.

Planting Papaya

  • Prepare a planting site in full sun that is sheltered from a prevailing breeze or wind.

  • Work well-rotted compost or manure into the soil.

  • Dig a hole half again as deep and twice as wide as the tree’s roots. Add a cupful of all-purpose fertilizer to the bottom of the hole.

  • Put a tree stake in place before planting. Drive the stake into the ground to the side of the hole to at least 2 feet deep. Papayas are shallow-rooted; they should be staked at planting time.

  • Set the plant in the hole so that the soil mark from the nursery pot on the stem is at the surface level as the surrounding soil. Spread the roots out in all directions.

  • Re-fill the hole with half native soil and half aged compost or commercial organic planting mix; firm in the soil so that there are no air pockets among the roots. Water in the soil and create a modest soil basin around the trunk to hold water at watering time.

  • Secure the tree to the stake with tree ties.

  • After planting, water the tree thoroughly and fertilize with a high-phosphorus liquid starter fertilizer.

Container Growing Papaya

  • Papaya can be grown in a container. Choose a container 24 inches wide and deep. Use a citrus or palm potting mix that is well-drained. Choose a dwarf variety to grow.

Propagating Papaya

  • Papayas are commonly propagated by seed. Wash the gelatinous covering from the seeds and dry them. Plant the seed in a sterile potting mix. Use 80°F bottom heat to speed germination. Seeds will germinate in 3 to 5 weeks.

  • Papayas can be propagated from semi-hardwood cuttings.


Papaya Care

  • Papayas need regular water during the growing season, but their roots can not sit in water. Be sure the soil is well-drained. Papayas are susceptible to root rot.

  • Keep the soil on the dry side in winter.

  • Fertilize papayas with an organic fertilizer slightly higher in phosphorus than nitrogen and potassium–such as 5-10-5. Feed papayas monthly during the growing season.

  • Protect papaya from frost. Cover the plant with a frost blanket or erect a frame around the plant and drape clear plastic over the frame to form a mini-greenhouse. Place electric lights inside the frame to provide additional warmth. Mexican papayas are hardier than Hawaiian varieties.

Pruning Papaya

  • Papayas do not require pruning.

  • Plants yield best on a single trunk; clip away sprouts to ensure a single trunk.


Harvest and Storing Papaya

  • Papayas bear fruit within a year of germination

  • Ripe papaya turns either yellow or an amber to orange hue depending on the type. A ripe papaya will be aromatic and give slightly to gentle pressure.

  • Unripe papaya will ripen at room temperature, but very dark green fruits may not fully ripen.

  • Refrigerate ripe papayas in a plastic bag and use within one week.

Pests and Diseases


Pests


1. Mealybug


Symptoms - Flattened oval to round disc-like insect covered in cottony substance on tree; chlorosis, plant stunting, leaf deformation, early leaf and fruit drop insects attract ants which may also be present; insect colony may also be associated with growth of sooty mold due to fungal colonization of sugary honeydew excreted by the insect.


Comments - Insects have a wide host range; often tended by ants which farm them for their sugary honeydew secretions; transmit Cocoa swollen shoot virus.


Management - Mealybugs can potentially be controlled by natural enemies such as lady beetles but are commonly controlled using chemicals; chemical pesticides may also decrease populations of natural enemies leading to mealybug outbreaks.


2. Scale insects (White peach scale)


Symptoms - Scale insects cause damage by feeding on twigs, branches and fruit, injecting toxins into the plant as they do so; if the infestation is heavy, gumming may occur on the bark and twigs or entire branches can be killed; insects are flattened discs, or "scales" with no visible legs; scales produce a white waxy coating which eventually turns black (black cap stage).


Comments - Scale insects overwinter in the black cap stage; winged adult males mate with females which retain their eggs inside the body until they hatch.


Management - Populations are often kept in check by natural enemies, including predacious beetles and some wasps - although broad-spectrum insecticides may result in outbreaks of scale by killing off populations of beneficial insects; trees can be sprayed with horticultural oils when dormant which effectively kill scales without damaging natural enemies.


Diseases


1. Anthracnose and charcoal spot


Symptoms - Small water-soaked lesions of fruit during ripening; circular sunken lesions with light brown margins.


Comments - Fungi spread by wind and rain; disease emergence favored by high temperature and humidity; disease can have a serious impact on refrigerated fruit for export.


Management - Appropriate protective fungicides should be applied; dipping fruits in hot water at 48°C for 20 minutes reduces the incidence of the disease.


2. Black rot


Symptoms - Black sunken rot on young fruits originating from stem end or contact with a leaf; young fruit withering and dropping from plant; small, brown sunken lesions with light brown margins on ripening fruit.


Comments - Fungi enters fruit through wounds.


Management - Appropriate protective fungicides should be applied; dipping fruits in hot water at 48°C for 20 minutes reduces the incidence of the disease.

3. Black spot

Symptoms - Circular water-soaked or brown lesions on older leaves; centers of lesions become bleached as they mature; leaves curling and turning brown; raised lesions on trunks; sunken circular lesions on fruit.


Comments - Disease spread by wind and rain; disease emergence favored by cool weather interspersed with moisture from dew or rain.


Management - Disease may require applications of appropriate fungicides for adequate control.

4. Cercospora black spot

Symptoms - Tiny black dots on fruit which enlarge to 3 mm across; spots are slightly raised and although indistinct on unripe green fruit, become visible on ripening to yellow; lesions on leaves are irregular in shape and gray-white in color; if infestation is severe, leaves may turn yellow and necrotic and drop from plant.


Comments - Disease usually enters orchard from infected papaya leaves in adjacent orchards.


Management - Applications of appropriate protective fungicides at intervals of 14 to 28 days provide satisfactory control of the disease.

5. Powdery mildew

Symptoms - Infect all parts of tree. The infected leaves show white mycelial growth commonly on under surface , particularly near leaf veins. Some time white mycelial growth can also seen on upper leaf surface. The infected area becomes light green and chlorotic (lesions) with dark green margin.


Comments - Powdery mildew pathogens are saprophytic need living host for survival and growth. The pathogen is favored by high humidity and low sunlight.


Management - Remove the infected parts and dispose them properly. Avoid irrigating the trees by sprinkler. Provide proper nutrition to trees to withstand powdery mildew infection. If the disease is severe, apply suitable fungicides.


6. Papaya ringspot


Symptoms - Dark green rings on fruit which may be slightly sunken and become less distinct as the fruit ripens; fruits may have uneven bumps; leaves often exhibit a bright yellow mosaic pattern and new leaves are small and plant growth is stunted.


Comments - Virus is transmitted by several aphid species.


Management - Infected plants should be removed and destroyed to prevent spread of the virus; new planting materials should be free of the virus; intercropping papaya with a non-host such as corn can help to reduce the incidence of the disease in papaya orchards by providing aphid vectors with an alternative feeding site.


7. Phytophthora fruit rot (Stem rot)


Symptoms - Water-soaked lesions on unripe fruit that oozes latex; withering fruit; water-soaked lesions on leaf scars of fruit bearing stem; mature fruit covered in white mycelium.


Comments - Fungi survive in soil and enter through wounds in stem; disease often emerges after hurricane damage.


Management - Disease can be controlled through the use of appropriate protective fungicides such as mancozeb or copper sulfate; root rot in seedlings can be prevented by planting in holes filled with soil in which papaya has never been grown - by the time the roots extend out of the added soil the plant is no longer susceptible to the disease.

Benefits of Papaya


Skin - It is great for the skin and can be used as a face pack. It helps to get rid of acne and skin infections as it helps to open clogged pores. The fermented flesh of papaya also called papain helps to dissolve the dead cells, giving fresh and glowing skin as a result. It is good to cure skin infections and wounds that don’t heal quickly.


Vision: Zeaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant found in papaya flesh, which is involved in normal vision. It filters out ultraviolet rays and protects retinal cells from damage, especially age-related macular degeneration.


Cholesterol - As it is rich in fiber, papaya helps lower blood cholesterol levels. It contains enzymes that help prevent oxidization of cholesterol, which in return helps to prevent heart attacks.


Anti-aging - The antioxidants in papaya help in controlling premature aging. This quality of the papaya helps you to get a younger look.


Intestinal Worms - The seeds of papaya too possess medicinal properties. They are very good in treating intestinal worms in the body.


Constipation - Papaya helps in preventing constipation and aids in digestion. The enzyme papain is a digestive enzyme that helps in natural digestion.


Colon - Its juice helps in curing infections of the colon by clearing the pus and mucus from it. You need to take it regularly to heal quickly.


Weight Loss - It is low in calories and high in nutritional values. Hence, it is good food for those who want to lose some weight.


Morning Sickness - In pregnant ladies, regular consumption of a small slice of papaya helps to cure nausea and morning sickness.


Osteoporosis - It contains anti-inflammatory enzymes that help in relieving pain for those who are suffering from arthritis, edema and osteoporosis, and it also possesses anti-cancerous properties that can help prevent cancer.


Immunity - It is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C that help in boosting the body’s immunity and hence is very good for those who are suffering from fever, cold or flu.


Shampoos - Shampoos containing papaya are very good to control dandruff.


Menstrual Irregularities - It helps in controlling the menstrual irregularities in women. Papaya helps to ease menstrual cramps and helps in promoting the regular flow of menstruation.


Liver cancer - As it has an anti-proliferative effect on liver cancer cells it stops or slows down the growth of the cancer cells of the liver and helps in its cure.


Contraception - Research with adult male langur monkeys has shown that it has the contraceptive capability and maybe it has a similar effect in adult males too.


Kidney disorder - In poison-related kidney disorder it was found that the aqueous seed extract of the unripe mature fruits of papaya induces antioxidant and oxidative free radical scavenging and help kidney to recover.


Dengue Treatment - Researchers have found that the juice obtained from the papaya leaves help in the dengue fever treatment. The extract obtained from the papaya leaf increases the platelet count also known as thrombocytes in patients with dengue fever.


Uses

  • It can also be processed and used in a variety of products such as jams, fruit juices, and ice cream.

  • Ripe papaya is usually consumed fresh as a breakfast or dessert fruit.

  • Papaya is also consumed as a dried fruit.

  • Culled fruits can be fed to pigs and cattle.

  • Papaya seeds are also used as an ingredient in salad dressings.

  • Unripe fruits and leaves are consumed as vegetables.

  • Papain is a milky latex collected by making incisions in unripe papayas. The latex is either sun-dried or oven-dried and sold in powdered form to be used in beer clarifiers, meat tenderizers, digestion aids, wound debridement aids, tooth-cleaning powders, and other products.

  • The leaves, seeds and the milk of the papaya tree are used to cure intestinal problems and kill intestinal worms and parasites.

  • It is used to prevent pregnancy and for abortion.

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