Maureen Fitch examines papaya plantlets raised in a petri dish by a process
called micropropagation. Click image for caption and other photo
story to find out more.
Replanting Papayas: New Tactics May Cut
Costs By Marcia
January 2, 2004
The sweet taste and creamy texture of a fresh papaya make this
exotic tropical fruit a perfect addition to a zesty salsa, colorful fruit salad
or refreshing shake. Or, you may prefer your papaya halved and served with a
splash of lime juice.
Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service and their
university and corporate colleagues are working out a science-based strategy to
streamline today's costly replanting of papaya orchards. They're doing the work
in Hawaii at the agency's U.S. Pacific
Basin Agricultural Research Center, headquartered in Hilo. Most of
America's papaya crop is grown in Hawaii.
Papaya trees bear fruit less than year after they're planted.
However, yields typically taper off once trees reach 3 years of age. This means
that most papaya orchards have to be replanted every 3 to 4 years, according to
ARS plant physiologist Maureen M.M. Fitch at Aiea, Hawaii, near Honolulu.
Fitch has developed a high-tech approach for simpler, less
costly replanting. It relies on using shoots from ideal papaya plants to
generate multiple laboratory plantlets. Screening all plantlets with a highly
accurate laboratory test insures that the plantlets, when mature, will produce
trees with the fruit that growers and consumers want.
With this approach, growers need only place one young papaya
tree per planting hole in their orchards. That's in contrast to today's
practice in which growers must place at least five young trees per hole to
insure a 97 percent chance that at least one will produce the desired fruit.
The other four trees have to be chopped down, a time-consuming and labor
The idea of propagating perfect papaya plantlets in the
laboratory isn't new, but the technology that Fitch is fine-tuning will be
freely available, in contrast to proprietary techniques.
about the research in the January 2004 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.