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Permalink Should I plant pawpaw seedlings or grafted trees?

Answer: There are a number of cultivars that produce superior fruit. An unbiased description of most of these cultivars is available at Kentucky State University’s pawpaw website. Grafted trees of these named cultivars can be relatively expensive—up to $35 for a single potted tree; wholesale quantities would presumably cost less per tree—so prospective growers might be tempted to plant ungrafted seedlings. Although seedlings are much cheaper than grafted trees, there is enough genetic variability in the pawpaw that commercial-scale growers will be taking a significant gamble if they plant ungrafted seedlings, and they will not know the outcome of their bet for around five to seven years because it can take that long for seedlings to begin bearing (grafted trees usually start bearing in three to four years).

If you live in an area where pawpaws grow wild, you might be tempted to transplant from the wild, but wild pawpaws have long taproots, which are very easily damaged. Often, pawpaw trees in wild patches are rootsuckers from a single original tree. With poorly developed root systems per individual shoot, these rootsuckers do not transplant well. Even nursery-grown pawpaws can be difficult to transplant. They have fleshy, brittle roots with very few fine root hairs, which inevitably get damaged when transplanting. Experimentation has shown that, to be successful, transplantation should be done in the spring, at the time when new growth commences or soon after. If many roots are lost, it may be desirable to prune the top to bring it into balance with the remaining roots.

To learn much more about pawpaw production, consult the ATTRA publication Pawpaw - A "Tropical" Fruit for Temperate Climates. It provides a good overview of pawpaw production, including overall culture, pests, harvest, postharvest handling, marketing, and research that seeks to advance the pawpaw’s potential for commercial development.

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