Passion Fruit - a Fruit Meghalaya’s Farmers Are Now Growing!

Passion fruit growing in Meghalaya

The geo-climatic condition of Meghalaya offers a perfect scope for growing different kinds of horticultural produce. The produce includes various types of fruits, vegetables, plantation crops, spices, aromatic and medicinal plants.

All these plant products have high economic value that will bring monetary returns to our traditional farmers. Fruits that grow well in tropical, subtropical and temperate climates can be cultivated in Meghalaya. Even the altitude of Meghalaya is advantageous for growing horticultural produce.

This article revolves around the agricultural methods that are practiced by farmers of Meghalaya to grow passion fruit.

What exactly is passion fruit?

Passion fruit is scientifically called as Passiflora edulis comes from the plant family Passifloraceae, which is a native plant of Brazil. In India, the fruit is found growing in the wild, in various parts of the Western Ghats like Nilgiris, Kodaikanal, Coorg, Wynad, Shevroys and Malabar coast.

It is also grown in Himachal Pradesh and Northeastern states such as Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya. Passion fruit is known for its distinct flavor and aroma which is why it is mostly used in making squash but also in flavoring other food products.

The delicious juice of passion fruit is excellent and nutritious and can easily be blended with many food products.

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Passion fruit growing in Meghalaya

Passion fruit juice is often mixed with other natural fruit juices, such as pineapple, mango, and ginger etc., to increase and elevate the flavor. The juice is extensively used for confectionery purposes for the preparation of cakes, pies, and ice creams.

Passion fruit is a rich source of Vitamin A and contains a fair amount of nutrients such as Sodium, Magnesium, Sulphur, and Chlorides.

Yellow passion fruits yield 36% juice, 51% rinds and 11% seeds. (source)

Flowers of the passion fruit have a prominent fragrance and the passion fruit is round with a tough skin which is smooth and waxy. It is an aromatic mass of double walled membrane filled with an orange colored pulp and has 250 small, hard, brown or black seeds inside it.

Did you know that the leaf of the passion fruit is used for medicinal purposes in Northeast India? The fresh leaves are boiled, extracted and used as a remedy for hypertension, diabetes, diarrhea, gastritis, dysentery, abdominal flatulence and as liver tonic.

More Facts on Passion Fruit

Passion fruit has very low pectin content, of about 2.4 %, and the rind residue contains 5-6% protein content that can be used as fodder for cattle and poultry.

Oil can also be extracted from the fruits of passion fruit and it contains 23% oil content. The oil extract of passion fruit has been compared to sunflower and soybean oil, which makes it useful for edible and industrial purposes.

Pharmaceutical industries also have great interest in passion fruit, especially in European countries. The compounds such as passiflorine and glycoside of the plant P.incarnata, which is used as a sedative or tranquilizer.

The juice of Passion fruit is also prescribed as a digestive stimulant and treatment for gastric cancer.

Where is it found in the world?

Passion fruit is found mostly in the wild and is cultivated in portions of the Old-World countries that includes the highlands of Sumatra, Malaya, Java, Norfolk Islands, Solomon Islands, Western Somoa, Cook Islands, the Philippines, Guam, Zimbabwe the Ivory Coast and Taiwan.

Brazil also has a long line of well-established passion fruit industry with large juice extraction plants. Other countries include Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda.

In India, passion fruit is commercially cultivated in the Northeastern states of Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland. It is also cultivated in some parts of Nilgiris and Shevroys.

Organic Farming with Passion Fruit

Organic farming is a crop production method that is nature-friendly and safe for the environment. It also maximizes the use of natural resources available on the farm.

It is the farming system that seeks to avoid the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Organic system is the entire use of plant, animal, soil, water and microorganisms that also protects the environment.

Climate and Soil Condition required for Passion Fruit

Passion fruit prefers a tropical and subtropical humid conditioned climate. It also grows perfectly well at an elevation of 2000 m altitude with an annual rainfall of 1000 to 2500 mm. The crop requires an optimum temperature of 20 to 30-degree C and temperature below 15-degree C may restrict vegetative growth and flowering.

Passion fruit grows best in light sandy and loamy soils with pH of 6.0 -7.0 and good drainage. The soil must also have sufficient quantity of moisture. Soil rich in organic matter and low in salts is considered very suitable for its cultivation.

Types of Passion Fruit

Purple Passion Fruit Vines are productive at higher elevations. The juiciness of the fruit varies 31-35 per cent. The variety is known for its quality in terms of flavor and nutrient content. The variety is susceptible to leaf spot, collar rot, attack by thrips and nematodes.

Yellow Passion Fruit This variety is suitable for lower elevations and is less productive at higher elevations due to its sensitiveness to low temperature. The fruit is bigger in size than purple variety, each weighing about 60 g, round in shape with yellow mottled spots, turns golden yellow when ripe. Juice is more acidic, its recovery being comparatively less than the purple. Seeds are brown, tolerant to leaf spot and wilt, escapes the damage by thrips and tolerant to nematodes.

Kaveri Hybrid Passion Fruit: It is a hybrid between Purple and Yellow passion fruit developed at Central Horticulture Experimental Station, Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, Chettalli, Karnataka. It is a high yielding variety and each fruit weighs 85-110 g. The fruits are purple in colour, fruit quality comparable to that of Purple variety. The variety is reported to have field tolerance to brown leaf spot, collar rot, wilt and nematodes. (source)

passion fruit grown in Meghalaya
Ways of cultivating Passion Fruit

Passion fruit can be propagated by seed and by cuttings, grafting on resistant root stocks. Seedlings and grafted plants are more vigorous than the plants that are grown by cutting.

The seedlings that are cultivated via seed propagation produce superior quality vines in regards to yield and quality. The pulp, after extraction, is allowed to ferment for up to 72 hours and the seeds are extracted separately. The seeds are sown in the seed bed during the month of March to April.

The seedlings, after it has reached a stage of having 4-6 leaves, are transplanted in poly bags. Each polybag contains a mixture of soil, compost, and sand in the ratio of 2:1:1. The seedlings are allowed to grow in the polybag for about three months after which they have transplanted again in the main field. Vegetative propagation is also used for cultivating the fruit, where cuttings of  30-35 cm length,  with 3-4 nodes, are (subject verb) required for the propagation.

The ‘cuttings’ are (subject verb) placed in soil beds or pots for root growth and then transferred into polybags for proper root development. The ‘cuttings’ which have (subject verb) already developed roots are (subject verb) ready for planting in about three months. Spacing is another important factor to look at, for the cultivation of passion fruit,  but it depends on the type of the fruit and the training system used by the particular farmer for cultivating the passion fruit.
For instance, for the Kniffin system of training the spacing adopted is 2m x 3m, which will accommodate 1666 plants/ha. In bower system, the recommended spacing is 3m x 3m which accommodates about 1110 plants/ha. (source)

Preparation of Land for the plantation of passion fruit

If the plantation site falls under a wind prone area, especially if the site experiences strong winds, then you must prepare the site in such way that the vines can avoid the strong winds. As the wind not only damages the vines, but it becomes more difficult to train the vine on the trellis.

This is one reason why the farmers dig a pit of 45 cm x 45 cm x 45 cm with a spacing of 3m x 2m on the hill slopes or plains. These pits are filled with top soil and vermi-compost. Cultivation of passion fruit is done during the month of May-June after the onset of monsoon. Turmeric and ginger are grown as intercrops for supplementing nutrition.

Training method for Passion Fruit

Vines of passion fruit are trained to one unbranched shoot from the lower part of the plant that goes up towards the trellis height. From this point, two vigorous shoots (primary shoots) are allowed to grow on the trellis in opposing directions.

In due time, laterals arise from the primary shoots of the plant. These laterals hang downward, which is why the tendrils that come in the way can be removed periodically. The laterals constitute the position of the vine where fruit bearing occurs. The method of trellising is important to obtain maximum potential yield of passion fruit.
The most economical training method is the Kniffin system in which 2.5 m long posts/pillars are erected 3 m apart and four lines of 9 to 11-gauge wire is allowed to run across. The trellis should run across the slope or in North-South direction, to have maximum and even exposure of vines to sunlight.

In case, wooden posts are used, they have to be painted with coaltar at the base to avoid insect attack and quick rotting. Telephone system on raisers is also economical as it allows growing intercrops on terraces and suppressing the weed growth. The bower system of training is also followed in many areas. (source)

Pruning method for Passion Fruit

Passion fruit plant always has a seasonal growth, which is why a systematic method of pruning the vines is required, as it encourages new growth regularly producing higher yield of fruits. During the harvest season, the laterals are cut back to 4-5 buds during the month of April and December.

Pest and Diseases associated with Passion Fruit

Fruit flies Daucus specie usually punctures the immature fruits during the development process. The fruits become woody, deformed and the pulp content is reduced. Thrips usually feed on buds and developing fruits and the affected fruits are deformed which causes the fruit weight to reduce.

Whereas the mites feed on leaves and tender fruits that it leads to defoliation and formation of undersized fruits. Plant diseases such as brown spot, root rot, and wilt or white collar are some of the devastating diseases that passion fruit plant is susceptible to, but these conditions are controllable if certain measures are taken up.

Passion fruit plant bearing the fruits
Harvesting process of Passion Fruit

Vines of the passion fruit plant starts yielding after a period of 10 months of planting and bear an optimum reach of 16-18 months. There are two main phases of the fruiting season, during the months of August to December and March to May.

The fruits take about 80 to 85 days to reach maturity state and it should be marketed quickly to prevent loss in pulp weight and appearance. Even though the rind becomes wrinkled on drying,  the pulp remains in good condition for several days.

Post-Harvest Management of Passion Fruit

The passion fruit is generally not consumed as a table fruit as it has numerous small, hard, dark brown seeds. Also, its commercial value lies in its processing in preparation of juice, concentrate, squash, ice cream, confectionery or in blending its juice with other fruit juices to enhance the flavor.
In the state of Manipur, passion fruit processing unit has been set up at Punanamei Mao, in Senapati district under the joint venture of Good Samaritan Social Service Association, Mao (NGO), Central Small Farmers Agri Business Consortium, New Delhi and NEDFI. (source)
Here are a few facts and methods that are applied by the farmers of Meghalaya for cultivating passion fruit. This article has been extracted from a researched study, that has documented the method of cultivation for this fruit. We at Zizira want to bring awareness of such information that can help farmers as well as young entrepreneurs to make the best use of their resources.

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