Pests and Diseases that Affect Papaya Trees

birds eating ripe papaya

Papaya is a herbaceous perennial plant and it is grown for its edible fruit. The papaya plant is usually unbranched and has hollow stems and petioles. It has a short life because the fruit yield gets low after only 3 years of cultivation. 

Papaya trees can reach up to 10 metres and can live up to 25 years. Plantations are usually replaced every 3 years to maximize productivity.

The optimum temperature for growing papaya from seeds is between 20° to 30° Celsius. The papaya tree is one of the easiest fruit trees to grow.

First, you need to choose a location for growing papaya trees where there is plenty of sun because it is impossible to grow without sunlight. Also, they are not the strongest so they need not be planted in a windy spot. 

Papaya fruit is composed of about 85% of water so they need plenty of it. But papayas are susceptible to root rot, and overwatering is the most common reason for this problem. 

In addition, excessive water causes yellowing of young leaves and premature fall of flowers. On the other hand, lack of water in the soil can lead to slow growth, accelerated ageing and premature leaf and fruit drop. 

To know when to water the papaya, do it when the top 2 centimetres of soil dries.

growing papaya trees

Most Common Problems When Growing Papayas

As mentioned, the most common problem is root rot due to overwatering. 

During the rainy season in Malaysia, there is not much you can do about it. This is because in every wet season, many mature papaya plants will be lost. Fret not, as many young plants will survive, so you will always have some papayas fruiting somewhere. 

Another common problem is strong wind. Papaya trees have a very shallow root system, and they can be blown over easily. The solution is to choose a location with low wind and replant in time. 

Because everybody loves papaya, you will have to be careful with birds, fruit bats, and possums. The best solution is to always pick the fruit as soon as it starts to ripen. Remember papayas can continue to ripen on your kitchen bench.

Pests, Viruses and Diseases

Sucking insects transmit a whole slew of viruses and diseases to papaya. The good news is that young vigorous papaya plants are least affected by pests or diseases.  

The best solution is to plant more, this way you can ensure a regular supply of papayas all year long. 

The most common diseases are:

white soil fungus
  • Soil fungi
    • Cause: Fungus
    • Symptoms: During ripening, small water-soaked lesions on the papaya fruit can become circular sunken lesions with light brown margins. 
    • Spread by wind and rain. It is favored by high temperature and humidity. 
    • Management: Apply protective fungicides as a preventive measure. 

Papaya Ringspot Virus
  • Papaya Ringspot Virus (PRSV)
    • Cause: A virus that is transmitted by several aphid species. 
    • Symptoms: There are several, dark green rings on the papaya; uneven bumps in the fruit; bright yellow mosaic pattern in the leaves; small new leaves, and plant growth is stunted
    • Management: If your papaya plants are infected, they should be removed and discarded to prevent the spread of the virus. Remember to clean all planting materials so they could be free of the virus.

Scale Insects on papaya trees
  • Scale Insects
    • Cause: Insects
    • Symptoms: Scale insects cause damage in the papaya fruit by injecting toxins into the plant. If the infestation is heavy, entire branches can be killed. 
    • Management: In most cases, these insects are kept in check by natural enemies. Also, trees can be sprayed with horticultural oils killing scales without damaging natural enemies.

In a Nutshell

The best way to grow papayas is from seeds. They are easy to grow and are low maintenance. Just make sure you choose the right location — one that’s full of sun, not too windy, give sufficient water, and a rich red sandy soil.  

If you have all of these elements, you will be able to enjoy this nutritious and delicious fruit all year long. 

Happy planting and eating!

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