Monday, February 26, 2024
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Papaya perfection

ANN/THE STAR – Ensuring successful papaya tree cultivation and preventing premature fruit drop requires a holistic approach, encompassing factors like water stress, nutrient deficiency, and pest and disease management.

Papaya trees, with their shallow root systems, demand regular and sufficient watering to uphold optimal soil moisture levels, highlighting the critical role of addressing water stress.

Avoiding waterlogging is essential to preventing root rot. Watering needs vary based on the soil type, with sandy soils often requiring more frequent watering. Implementing a drip irrigation system and using mulch can help conserve soil moisture.

Nutrient management is important. Papayas are heavy feeders requiring a balanced intake of nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Conducting a soil test can help identify specific nutrient deficiencies and guide the application of balanced fertiliser.

PHOTO: FREEPIK

Care must be taken to avoid over-fertilisation, particularly with nitrogen, to prevent excessive vegetative growth at the expense of fruit production.

Pest and disease control is vital. Common pests, such as aphids, spider mites and fruit flies, along with diseases such as papaya ringspot virus, can significantly impact the health of papaya trees.

Therefore, regular inspection is crucial. These include employing organic insecticides and maintaining overall plant health to effectively manage these challenges.

One natural pest control method involves pesticides that include Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a soil bacterium.

They are effective against certain insects, particularly caterpillars. Botanical insecticides such as neem oil, act as an insect repellent and fungicide, and pyrethrin, derived from chrysanthemum flowers, offer natural solutions for pest control.

However, pyrethrin should be used cautiously to avoid affecting the beneficial insects.

Physical controls, such as barriers, nets and sticky traps, are essential for protecting papaya trees from birds and insects.

Hand-picking pests or infected fruits can also be an effective method, especially in small-scale settings.

These natural and physical methods, when combined, can significantly reduce pest pressure on papaya trees, thereby minimising the need for chemical interventions.

In summary, successful growth and fruiting of papaya trees require a holistic approach that includes careful water management, balanced nutrient application, and diligent pest and disease control using a combination of natural insecticides and physical barriers.

This comprehensive approach is key to preventing the premature dropping of young fruits and ensuring a healthy papaya crop. – Dr Christopher Teh

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