The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, May 21, 2000
Garden Life

Grow healthy papaya
By Satish Narula

PAPAYA is one fruit about which the usual complaint is that it is not suitable for the region. Similar complaints have also been received about mango but as has been made clear time and again, it is the lack of scientific handling of these crops. The climate and soil are not to be blamed.

A rich source of vitamin A like mango, papaya has a tremendous medicinal value. The fruit is liked by many for another reason too — it starts bearing fruit within an year of planting. It finds favour with those gardeners who have to stay in a dwelling only for an year or two. Phalsa is another suitable bush for such gardens.

Papaya need a little careful handling. It is sensitive to wet feet and frost. Because of the

  protected boundary of home gardens, strong winds and frost are not the usual cause for the failure. It is the standing water that causes root rot at all stages of growth of this plant.

Mostly papaya is grown in vegetable beds which remain wet most of the time. This leads to root rot in papaya. Collar rot and stem rot disease is deadly for papaya. The roots and trunk of the plant rot producing a wet texture. This is a fungal disease that first sets in the collar region. This causes yellowing of the foliage, stunting of growth and poor fruit development, leading to the death of the plant. It is important to grow papaya at a location that has excellent drainage. The plant needs a good share of water but the water should not be stagnant even for a few hours. The rot affected plant should at once be uprooted and destroyed.

Another mistake that gardeners make is making mud mounds around the plant to give it "stability". Such mounds remain wet and in continuous touch with the main stem, thus causing rotting.

When the virus strikes the plant, you have no option but to uproot it. Papaya mosaic cause reduction in leaf size. Leaves curl up and are wrinkled.

The diseased leaves show blister-like patches of green tissue on a yellow background. The virus is spread by aphids and white fly. To control them, malathion 50 EC at one millilitre to a litre of water should be sprayed before the virus attack begins. In case the young leaves at the top of the affected plant become curled, twisted and deformed, it is papaya leaf curl virus. The foliage turns deep green and the plants become stunted. Such trees fail to bear fruit. In this case too the tree has to be uprooted and before the disease attacks, preventive measures (as suggested earlier) have to be taken.

There is no need to make big pits for planting papaya. Small pits of half by half metres are sufficient. In case you have planted more number of plants, keep about 10 per cent "male" plants that are characterised by long thin extensions of wire like threads that bear small flowers in rows. The plants are given 1.250 g of fertiliser mixture of urea, superphosphate and muriate of potash in the ratio 1:2:1/3, twice a year (February and August) alongwith 20 kg of well-rotteh farmyard manure.

The varieties recommended for this region are Pusa Delicious and Pusa Dwarf. Even fresh extracted seeds gently washed and rubbed within palms germinate well.