When Time is Money, ‘Fruta Bomba’ Delivers
Tropical fruit production takes extraordinary patience. New groves typically require several years to bear fruit. Papaya, also known as the pawpaw or ‘fruta bomba’, is a notable exception. It matures rapidly and yields fruit within a year after planting. The precocious nature of the species (Carica papaya L.) renders it an asset to growers and scientists alike. Well-suited to intercropping with slower-growing trees, papaya can provide an early source of revenue for new ventures or groves recovering from storms, pests, or disease. From a biologist’s perspective, papaya’s rapid progression from seed to mature plant, ability to self-pollinate, and production of hundreds of seeds per fruit make it an ideal model species.
Premium Papaya for South Florida
Domestic growers face steep competition against imported fruits from Central and South America. Large, oblong papayas including “Maradol” and various “Formosa”-types developed in Taiwan are ubiquitous and fetch a low price in the U.S. market with an average of $0.80 per pound in 2017. In contrast, smaller, pear-shaped fruits known as “solo-types”, are renowned for their superior quality and sell for nearly twice as much ($1.58/lb in 2017). The market for high-end, solo-type papayas is a vital niche for growers in Hawai’I (where they originated), and have been successfully cultivated for decades. Unfortunately, there are limited options for Florida growers wishing to produce solo-type papayas. Existing varieties are often poorly adapted to our subtropical climate and highly susceptible to diseases such as papaya ringspot virus (PRSV). In the future, we hope to serve local growers by developing new, solo-type papaya cultivars combining high yields, disease resistance, and excellent fruit quality.
We’ve planted more than two dozen types of papaya at the research center to quantify fruit quality (weight, shape, sugar, aroma) and agronomic characteristics (tree height, yield).
Developing New Papaya Cultivars
We're developing solo-type papaya cultivars adapted to south Florida by hybridizing elite parents to combine disease resistance, high yield, and excellent fruit quality.