Introduced to Kenya in the 1920s, the passion fruit is native to southern Brazil. It grows well in the tropics. In Kenya, passion fruit farming is done to supply the local market as well as for export. Kenya is a top supplier of the passion fruit to the European market alongside Zambia, Zimbabwe, Brazil, and Columbia.
Why should you consider passion fruit farming? Farming passion fruits are highly lucrative, giving farmers a good regular income. It grows in various climatic zones, from the highlands to lowlands. There is a high demand for the passion fruit, both in the local market and for export.
The United Kingdom is the largest importer of the Kenyan passion fruit, followed by the Netherlands, France, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, and Belgium.
Health Benefits of the passion fruit
- Rich in vitamin A, C and Carotene.
Physical Characteristics of the passion fruit
The passion fruit is a perennial vigorous plant that produces fruits within a year after planting. It is shallow-rooted, woody and climbs by means of tendrils. The yellow variety has a snowier intense colour. The fruits are round or oval-shaped with a rough waxy rind. The colour of the rind ranges from dark purple with faint fine specks to light yellow.
The passion fruit contains an acidic juice that is full of flavour. They can be processed for juice or eaten fresh.
Varieties of passion fruit.
The main varieties of the passion fruit grown in Kenya are:-
- Purple passion fruit
- Yellow passion fruit
- Sweet passion fruit
- Giant passion fruit
- Banana passion fruit
Purple Passion Fruit
This is the most cultivated variety of passion fruit in Kenya and the most important variety in the juice processing industry. It does well in cool temperatures at 2000 metres above sea level, west of the Rift Valley and between 1200 metres and 1800 metres above sea level, east of the Rift Valley.
The purple passionfruit is oval or round, with a diameter of between 4cm and 6cm. The colour changes from green to deep purple when ripe. The fruits usually drop from the vine when they ripen. The purple passion has an outstanding flavour, whether fresh, processed or frozen.
The yellow passion is more adapted to the tropical lowlands than the purple passion. It is also more vigorous. The pulp is aromatic and acidic. The fruit is slightly larger than the purple passion. It turns from green to yellow when it ripens. Ripe fruits usually drop from the vines.
Since the yellow variety is resistant to soil born diseases, it is used for grafting the purple variety.
Known the scientific name Passiflora Ligularis, and common name Sweet Granadilla, the sweet passion grows well in cooler climates, with elevations of 1500m above sea level.
The sweet passion fruit has an excellent flavour and turns from blue to orange-brown when ripe. It has a white aromatic pulp, enclosed in a hard rind, making it withstand transportation without getting damaged.
Giant Passion (Granilla)
The giant passion fruit grows well at sea level and a maximum elevation of 1700 meters above sea level.
The plant grows to a height of 30 metres and the fruit turns from green to yellow when ripe. The fruits are eaten fresh.
The banana passion fruit grows at higher colder climates of above 1500m above sea level.
Ecological Conditions for the passion fruit.
The purple passion fruit grows well in the upper midland to highland zones, while the yellow passion fruit variety does well in lower midland and lowland zones.
What climate does passion fruit grow in?
The passion fruit grows well at an altitude of between 1200 and 2000 meters above sea level, optimal temperature of 18 degrees Celsius and 25 degrees celsius for the purple passion and 25 degrees Celsius and 30 degrees celsius for the yellow passion fruit.
The passion fruit requires an annual rainfall of between 900mm to 2000mm. Too much rainfall will lead to the poor setting of the fruit and diseases.
The best soil for farming the passion fruit should be deep and fertile, with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. The soils should be well-drained as the passion fruit plant cannot withstand waterlogging for a long period of time.
Areas where passion fruit is commonly grown in Kenya
The places where passion fruit is grown in Kenya are Kiambu, Nakuru, Thika, Kisii, Nyeri, Kieni, Kakamega, Embu, Muranga, Vihiga, Nyamira, Meru, Trans-Nzoia, Bungoma, Siaya, Keiyo, Nandi, and Uasin Gishu.
Land Preparation for Passion Fruit Farming
When preparing the land to grow passion fruit, deep ploughing is advisable so as the soil gets well aerated and water can get in well. Crop rotation should be practiced to avoid soil born diseases.
Planting holes and spacing for the passion fruit
Passion fruit vines should be spaced 2 meters between rows and 3 meters within rows. The planting holes should be 60cm by 60cm, separating the topsoil and subsoil 2 months before planting.
Transplanting Passion Fruits
The purple passion fruit should be grafted onto yellow passion rootstocks in order to prevent some soil born diseases. Transplanting should be done on the onset of rains, early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The seedlings are covered up to the polytube, ensuring that the roots are not folded by cutting back long roots.
In dry areas, mulch, water and provide shade for young plants after transplanting.
Passion Fruit Seedlings
Clean, virus-free seedlings are transplanted when they are 60cm high. Make sure you buy the seedlings from certified dealers, who have measures in place to ensure quality disease-free seedlings.
The main reasons for grafting passion fruits are:-
- Higher yields
- Longer crop lifespan - you can harvest for more years
- Tolerance to diseases like fusarium wilt
- Grafted passion fruit develops a rigorous rooting system that absorbs water and nutrients well.
Fertilizer applications for passion fruit.
At Least 3 weeks before transplanting, fill the holes with at least 16kgs (One debe) of farmyard manure mixed with 125 grams of double superphosphate.
For top dressing, apply 150 grams of CAN per plant one month after transplanting and 150 grams of CAN per plant, at the beginning of the next rainy season. This makes a total of 300 grams of CAN per year
Spray the passion fruit plants with foliar and trace elements every 3 months.
Trellising Passion Fruit Vines
Trellises for the passion fruits are constructed with wire and posts.
The posts are dug in 6 cm deep holes and spaced 6m apart in the rows. The posts should be 2.7 meters long and 15 centimeters in diameter. Support the end posts using an anchor.
Fix galvanized wire of 10-12 gauge tightly to the top of each post in the row. After transplanting, train two healthy shoots above the graft union using sisal strings, by twinning them regularly until they reach the wire. All other shoots below the wire should be removed regularly. When the two shoots reach the wire, wind them carefully in opposite directions around the wire. As the shoots grow along the wire, the secondary lateral shoots, which will bear fruits are left to hand downwards.
Pruning Passion Fruit Vines
To encourage the growth of new fruit-bearing lateral vines, all unproductive vines and all dead wood must be removed as close to the main vine as possible.
Cut secondary shoots reaching the ground at 15cm above the ground. The vines should grow vertically to avoid the shoots growing into a thicket.
Tendrils that entangle should be removed regularly so that light can penetrate and air can get in. This reduces the chances of disease and pests.
Intercropping of passion fruits
For maximum use of land, intercropping is encouraged when the orchard is being established. You can plant vegetable crops such as coriander and spring onions but not beans because they harbor nematodes. Intercropping also prevents soil erosion
Any plant in the cucurbits family should not be near the passion fruit vines as the host of the Cucumber Mosaic virus. They host viruses that cause the woodiness disease in Passion Fruits.
Irrigation of Passion Fruits
To keep the vines flowering and fruiting continuously, water them regularly. Lack of water will cause the flowers to shrivel and fall prematurely. In dry areas and during the dry seasons, irrigate for maximum yield and high-quality fruits.
Diseases affecting the passion fruit
Diseases affecting the passion fruit are:-
- Fusarium Wilt
When infected with fusarium wilt, the plant will wilt and die. The vascular tissues will have brown discolorations. To prevent fusarium wilt, use yellow passion rootstock, grafted at a height greater than 45cm. Use sterile potting media.
Dark water-soaked lesions appear on the leaves when passion fruits are infected by blight. They later spread to the rest of the plant as infected tissues die. Blight affects both mature plants and young shoots. Blight can be prevented by using proper field hygiene. For treating blight, use Polyram or Dacomil.
- Brown Spot
Brown spots attack the leaves and fruits, causing brown rings with dead spots. The infection starts on leaves and can move to the leaf axils and terms. To prevent brown spot disease, thin vines to allow for aeration. You can treat brown spots using fungicides such as Dacomil/Milraz, Antacol or Ridomil
- Woodiness Virus
the woodiness virus disease is characterized by distortion of leaves, woodiness of fruits. The plants are stunted, with reduced yields and the vines will die off. To prevent the woodiness virus, sterilize the pruning tools using sodium hypochlorite (Jik bleach) or formaldehyde. Control any organism that might carry the virus and eliminate all weeds.
- Die Backs
The vines start dying at the tip or middle of the branches. It the last phases, the branches dieback, with the cortical and branches drying up. If your passion fruit orchard is affected by die backs, prune off all infected branches and paste with copper-based fungicides.
Pests affecting the passion fruit
- Red Spider Mites
Red spider mites occur on lover leaf surfaces between the veins and cause the leaves to dry. They can be controlled by uprooting the infested plant and keeping the field free from weeds. Pesticides such as Mitac and Dynamec can be used.
- Mealy Bugs
Mealybugs are pinkish oval-shaped stationery bugs covered with a waxy thread. Mealybugs can be controlled by pruning and destroying infested parts of the plant, removing the heavily infested plants and using pesticides such as Karate.
- Fruit Fly
Fruit flies lay eggs on the fruit, causing sunken brown spots, as the eggs hatch into white maggots and they get into inside the fruit. Fruit flies can be controlled using pesticides such as Decis, Bestox, Fastac, karate, and Labaycid.
Green in color, aphids sick sap from tissues. They transmit viruses such as the woodiness virus. Aphids are usually controlled by natural enemies, such as the ladybird and using broad-spectrum pesticides such as Decis
When thrips attach passion fruits, the affected parts shrivel, flowers and young fruits fall prematurely. There are lesions on fruits and distortion of leaves and young shoots.
- Stink bugs
The green vegetable stink bug, then yellow edge stink bug and the brown stink bug infest the passion fruits. They pierce and suck young fruits. Pierced areas are sunken and this leads to low fruit quality. Stink bugs can be controlled by handpicking or using chemicals like Decis
Nematodes live the soil, causing the formation of knots or galls on the roots. This makes the leaves turn yellow and stunted growth. The affected plants eventually die. To prevent nematodes, rotate with cassava, cereals, sweet potatoes cabbage and kale. Use yellow passion rootstock for grafting. Use clean field hygiene and use clean planting materials.
Harvesting Passion Fruits
The orchard will be ready for harvesting between eight and 12 months after transplanting.
If your target is the fresh market, pick the fruits when changing colour from green to purple, when the calyx dries up, leaving a short stock attached. It eh target is the processing market, allow the fruits to drop on to clean mulch. Over the rainy seasons, puck the fruits every other day and keep them in a cool place.
The harvesting peak seasons for passion fruits are from July to August and December to January.
When Harvesting passion fruits:-
- Cut the stalk short to avoid damaging other fruits
- If using pesticides, follow the pre-harvest interval of the pesticides used
- Any fallen fruit should be collected daily, in the morning to avoid being scorched in the sun
- Harvest into plastic buckets preferably early in the morning, between 9 am and 11 am as soon as the fruits dry of any outer moisture.
- Place the fruit in the buckets gently to avoid bruising them
- Wet fruits should be dried as soon as possible using air drying in a shaded place.
Yields per acre of the passion fruit
The average yields of the passion fruits are one tonne per acre.
Post-harvest care for passion fruits
Place the fruits in clean plastic wooden containers to avoid bruising. It is advisable to maintain cold chain delivery to the collection center/packhouse
- Sorting Passion Fruits
When sorting at the packhouse, all immature, diseased, damaged and over mature fruits are removed.
- Cleaning Passion Fruits
A clean damp cloth should be used to gently clean the dirt on the fruits. Do this gently, avoiding rubbing which may damage the skin.
- Grading Passion Fruits
Passion Fruits are graded according to size, colour, and appearance
- Pre-cooling passion fruits
Passion fruits that are to be exported or taken to distant markets are cooled immediately to between 5 degrees Celsius and 7 degrees Celsius.
- Packing Passion Fruits
Fibreboard or plastic trays, single or double-layered are used during packing. They weigh between 2kg and 5kg, with 46 to 48 fruits per box.
- Storage of Passion Fruits
Fresh fruit should not be stored for more than 24 hours. If kept under the relative humidity of 85% to 90%, and a temperature of 5 degrees Celsius and 7 degrees celsius, passion fruits can last for three to five weeks.
- Transportation of Passion Fruits
Pack the boxes firmly to prevent friction and damage. Transporting vehicles should be covered and well ventilated.
Nice procedure and steps to follow during the planting of passion
by Edwin kosgei
the yield per acre is 15-20 tonnes and not one tone