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Amazing Passion Fruit Market In Kenya And Beyond

The shortage of passion fruits for domestic and commercial consumption has sparked a rise in price as the entities strive to meet their fruit needs. The disparity in supply is evident from the margin of the cost of passion fruits in the various towns in Kenya. Passion fruit demand has many a time, been high as soft drink companies strive to meet this raw material. They are forced to import the fruits, with some of them bringing in concentrates because the fresh produce is also limited internationally. Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation’s Horticulture Research Institute officer Peter Mburu said increased demand makes passion fruit a better agribusiness venture than maize, which on many occasions, does not repay the invested production costs. On ordinary supply, a kilo of the passion fruits sells at about Sh80 but today a kilo of passion fruits can fetch you more than a hundred.

How to Grow Passion Fruit

The pH of the soil should be between 6.5 and 7.5. If it is lower, lime needs to be applied and incorporated into the soil several weeks prior to planting. Sodium levels in the soil must be low and application of a thick layer of mulch is strongly recommended as passion fruits are shallow rooted and are easily damaged by weeding or drought stress. Under good water and nutrient management, passion fruits can also be grown in big containers. The crops like a site in full sun to partial shade. They are grown along strong trellis, usually erected from wooden poles about 2m high and strong galvanised wires of about 6m (20ft) length. Spacing between rows is 3m. Part of this space can be utilised by intercropping with cherry tomatoes and cape gooseberries. Spacing between vines in a row is 5m. The main growing vine is trained along the wires. Fruits only grow on the side shoots called laterals and are trained so that they hang straight down. Once a lateral reaches the ground, it is cut off.

Read Also: Why Hass Avocado is the new Cash Crop

So, how do you grow healthy passion fruits?

  • Passion fruits can easily be grown from seeds, however, Oxfarm Organic Limited recommends vines grafted onto yellow passion fruit rootstock is as they have better disease and nematode resistance.
  • Water regularly and ensure good soil fertility by incorporating large amounts of compost, mulching and monitoring potassium and calcium levels. Too much nitrogen encourages only leaf growth at the expense of fruiting.
  • Regular pruning will improve production and keep your vines healthy. Side-shoots that develop from the laterals should be removed to keep your vines tidy, easy to harvest and allow good aeration.
  • Do not let your laterals get entangled with each other. Fruits are only borne on new shoots, therefore, cut each lateral back to a newly developing side shoot close to the main vine after all fruits have been harvested from the lateral.
  • The main vine will continue growing and producing new laterals.

Spread Of Pathogens

Hygiene in your plantation is extremely important. Always prune any diseased or dead plant parts and destroy them. Disinfect your tools and hands during pruning to avoid spread of pathogens. The diseases to watch out for:

  • Dieback is caused by Fusarium or Phytophtora infections, which are both fungal diseases. The use of toxic fungicides should be limited to the necessary minimum. To prevent fungal diseases, frequently spray with this homemade organic fungicide:
  • Crush 2kg of coriander seeds and boil them for 10 minutes in 10 litres of water. Chop 40 onions and pour the hot coriander-water over the onions. Leave them to soak for 24 hours. Filter through a cloth and dilute with 20 litres of water and spray.
  • Brown spot (Alternaria passioflorae) and Leaf spot (Septoria passioflorae) are also fungal diseases that can be prevented by good plantation management, hygiene and the same regular fungicide applications as those of dieback (above). Symptoms are spots on leaves and fruits, eventually making them drop.
  • Woodiness is a virus infection that is transmitted during pruning or grafting and also through sucking insects like aphids. It occurs mainly during the cooler season. Symptoms are mottled foliage and malformed fruits with a thickened, hard rind, producing no pulp. Disinfect tools and hands and immediately remove and destroy diseased vines.
  • Mealy bugs (Planococcus kenyae) are small, oval insects covered in white, waxy fluff. They attach themselves near the fruits and leaves and weaken the vines by sucking honeydew.
  • Excess honeydew also promotes the development of black mould, which covers entire leaves and vines and can eventually kill the plant as photosynthesis is restricted.
  • Similar damage is done by aphids and white flies. Build-up of aphid colonies often starts on nearby plants. Therefore, scout your plantation regularly before any pest takes over whole vines. A pest infestation is usually a sign of bad water and nutrients management.
  • Sucking bugs like Leptoglossus membranaceusor Anaplocnemis curvipes are easily identified by their enlarged, bow-shaped hind legs. They damage fruits by leaving pimply pierce marks that are sometimes are confused with woodiness virus.

NB! To curb the pests, mix 30 to 40ml of neem oil with a litre of water. Add a teaspoon of liquid soap and mix well. Use immediately as a spray, covering also the undersides of the leaves. Neem oil is not a poison but a deterrent, which is always preferable in food crops. Well-kept vines will produce fruits for three to five years. The crop starts flowering about six months after transplanting and fruits ripen in about two-and-a-half months after they set. Harvest in the morning and avoid post-harvest damage by handling the fruits carefully. A well-kept plantation will produce about six to seven tonnes per acre. Always start with a soil test.

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profitable passion fruit farming in kenya

Passion fruit farming

All you need to know about passion fruits farming

Varieties to grow in Kenya

  • Purple Passion: (Passiflora edulis) …
  • Yellow Passion: – (Passiflora edulis var flavicarpa) …
  • Sweet Passion or Sweet granadilla: – (Passiflora ligularis) …
  • Giant Passion or Granilla:- (Passiflora quadrangularis) …
  • Banana Passion:- (Passiflora mollissima)

Purple varieties do better at higher altitudes areas than the yellow types which does well in warmer areas. Yellow types tend to yield higher and are more resistant to diseases.

Ecological requirement

Altitude – Passion fruits do well in a wide range of altitudes from 1,200m to 1,800m above sea level East of the Rift Valley and up to 2,000m above sea level West of the Rift valley.

Temperature – Optimum temperature for purple passion fruit is between 18oC to 25oC and 25oC to 30oC for yellow passion fruit.

Rainfall – Rainfall should be well-distributed, between 900mm to 2,000mm per year. Excess rainfall causes poor fruit set and encourages diseases mainly leaf and fruit rusts.

Soil – Passion fruits do well in a variety of soils, which should be reasonably deep and fertile with the soil pH in the range of 6.0 to 6.5. Soil which are very acidic tend to reduce the uptake of the nutrients and also accelerates Fusarium wilt disease that causes rotting of roots.

PLANTING

Preparation of planting materials.

Passion fruit can be grown from seeds but we graft to produces improved stock. Yellow passion fruit is best for production of root stock because of superior disease resistance while purple is good for fruit production.

To reduce the germination period, we soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. After 3-4 months we transplant them to a suitable place in the farm since they will act as a source of scions. We then sow the seeds of yellow passion fruit in plastic sleeves similar to those that we use for purple passion. An important distinction between the seeds of the two varieties is, Yellow passion seeds are brown in color, while those of the purple passion are black in color. Fresh seeds tend to germinate faster than older seeds therefore using them saves about 1 week.

Grafting Passion Fruit Vines

This process involves the choosing the correct rootstock and scion and identifying the most appropriate and common grafting technique is wedge grafting. Success of the graft union depends on the experience of the farmer, the choice of rootstock and scion, management practices such as watering and cleanliness of graft union.

The Rootstock

We graft yellow passion seedling when it attain a thickness of pencil since a thin, fleshy stem reduces the chances of successful graft union. Fleshy stems are prone to excessive transpiration thus leading to graft union failure. Once we select a suitable rootstock with the aforesaid qualities it is it defoliated, terminal end removed leaving a 8 cm long stem.

The Scion

We select a scion of the same thickness of a pencil from an existing purple passion plant that is healthy and free from pests and diseases. The stem must be woody enough and have 2 to 3 buds and we completely defoliate reduce its rate of respiration.

We cut the basal end into a wedge shape that is 2 cm long to allow the xylem and the phloem vessels to be in contact with those of the rootstock. We then cut a slit of about 2 cm long on the rootstock using a clean surgical blade, in which a fitting scion from purple passion is inserted and tied. The graft joint is wrapped tightly using a plastic tape to ensure no air, water or fungi goes through the joint. After 3 weeks the graft union is healed we do the hardening of the plant before it is transplanted.

TRANSPLANTING

We transplant our seedlings at the beginning of the rainy season around April-June or on any other month depending on availability of irrigation water. Passion fruit has deep roots, so soils should be well-tilled. We elect posts to a field having wire trellis to support the growing crop and fruits produced. Passion vines are planted 2m from one row to the other and 3m from one plant to the other.

The vines are usually directed so that growth is in both directions along the supporting wires. Yields are highest following a regular fertilization regime. Old or dead shoots are pruned. We also inter crop with vegetables or other annuals is to utilize free space especially when the crop is young.

Once established, the vines grow rapidly and the fruit should flower after about seven months. Ideally, young passion vines should be set in the field early in the growing season after there is no danger of drought.