Patrick OMalley, Field Specialist Commercial Horticulture, Southeast
Many new or existing growers are looking for alternative crops that require minimal inputs. There is a relatively rare forest tree found in very isolated spots in southeast and southwest Iowa called the pawpaw. This small tree typically produces a 4-8 ounce fleshy dessert fruit of variable quality.
Background research on pawpaws was conducted to determine any possible potential for growing them as a commercial crop in the upper Midwest. Contacts were made with Kentucky State University (KSU) and the Pawpaw Foundation (PF) to learn more about pawpaws and to secure access to both grafted named cultivars and elite germplasm lines. A replicated trial consisting of 300 total trees and 28 different cultivars or breeding lines were planted in 1999 in Louisa County, IA. Partners with ISU Extension include: The fore mentioned KSU and PF, Louisa County Conservation, Northwoods Nursery, Red Fern Farm (Iowa), Columbus Junction High School (planting), Trees Forever, Iowans for a Better Future, and the Leopold Center.
Trees first fruited in 2004. Some of the elite germplasm lines have produced extremely tasty fruit the size of a pound or more (three of these have subsequently been commercially released by the breeder as commercial cultivars). In 2006 yields were at a level that potential long term yields could be extrapolated. Trees planted at a 10 x 12 spacing would equate to 362 trees per acre. At an estimate of 30 lbs of fruit per tree at full production (8-10 years) there would be 10,860 lbs/acre. At a wholesale price of $1.50 per pound, the gross income would be $16,290/acre. Work is being conducted with Sutliff Cider to determine potential for the fruit in various forms of juice.
130 Horticulture: Commercial and Consumer
Page last updated:
September 27, 2007
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