Babaco Tips

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  • Richard Poli  It seems they are very cold sensitive here in Brisbane in that they lose almost all of their leaves in winter.  They just get going again and flush in late spring only to be hit heavily by red spider mite (could be the two spotted mite) If you let this go they drop all their leaves again. I have used Rogor in the past season but the degree at which the mites attack is variable and can be almost non existent.  They don’t like wet feet even if grafted, however Phosphoric Acid (Phosjet) seems to give them some benefit when the heavy summer rains persist.  Anyway by the time they get to and get strong enough to flower, set fruit etc it is very much mid to late summer just in time to reach maturity while the leaves are falling off yet again.  So what do they do? They abort the fruit though sometimes if you are lucky you may nearly get them ripe before that happens.  If they abort the fruit even though they are mature they ripen with not much taste. Having said that if all the constellations line up at the right phase of the moon and you get some fruit to tree ripen they are very much sort after by all  family members. I would put it in a protected yet full sun environment with heaps and heaps of mulch and organics.

    Peter van Velzen  – Mt. Tamborine   Mites tend to be a problem but can be controlled by Wettable Sulphur as long as it is not too hot.  Need some uses for the fruit as we find it a bit tasteless.  Apart from that, they are easy to grow and take care of themselves.  My trees are all seedlings.  They produce in the first year and are currently 3 years old.

    John Prince from New Zealand    I think problems with Babaco reflect several things including (1) trying to grow them in what might be the wrong climate so that they struggle a bit and that makes them prone to disease or insect problems that don’t occur in a climate that’s more natural for them, and (2) a misunderstanding of natural growth habits, plus, probably, (3) the question of their eating quality. They are a naturally occurring cross [technically best known now, according to one fairly recent scientific paper that I’ve sighted as Vasconcella x heilbornii ‘Babaco’.That is, they are in the Caricaceae family, but are now separated again from Carica papaya. The areas that the more than 20 Vasconcella spp. come from are centred in areas of Andean highlands, although they do range from drier coastal areas into moist subtropics. It may be that Babaco just doesn’t really like your climate. Isn’t red spider mite associated with overly dry conditions? It certainly is here, where it shows up as nuisance on many plants that are being grown indoors, often stressed by unnaturally dry air- as with the young palms that sit a few metres from where I’m writing this, in a sunny window seat area, and in a room heated artificially on cool nights. They crop heavily in northern NZ but are limited by our cool winter temperatures and, as with the other members of the family that are grown here, they eventually resent REALLY wet conditions around their roots. They (i.e. the Vasconcella species that I’m familiar with from growing them here, and from viewing them at other people’s places- perhaps half a dozen species in all) all lose their old leaves at some stage in winter. You are then left with a stem, and with incipient leaf growth, or a few small leaves. That’s completely normal here, and we have no trouble because of this. They come back into growth with warmer weather, set fruit in time, and mature it so that we harvest and eat it without major problems. Outdoor plants, given our spread of moist conditions throughout the year, are not a problem.

    Ariel from Israel During 1987-9 I was a Babaco consultant to the Guernsey Babaco growers. The island of Guernsey is located in the Gulf Stream near the island of Jersey. I used to fly there every 3 months from Israel and give a lecture, a Babaco workshop for the growers and visit the glasshouse grown plantations. The conditions there were perfect and the entire canopy stayed in full leaf area thus contributing photosynthesis products in both cold and warm weathers. Based on the experienced gained, an annual model for growing Babaco was made up, keeping a specific leaf area to fruit load ratio. Thus, both deleafing and defruiting practices were conducted in order to achieve good quality fruits at specific times of the year. At that time, the Italians were flooding the European markets with their small soft Babaco. The conditions produced leaf and soil sample analysis with values similar to optimal values for papaya. A nice Babaco recipe booklet was published there. I think that most of the horticultural problems were defined and solved by the HAS team and it was nice to work with them. We tried grafting Babaco on papaya and Papaya on Babaco and it was successful. The first conclusion from my visits was that you must start with an excellent plant in the flowering stage with 10 litres roots/volume that should be planted around Sept-Oct (for the Southern Hemisphere) and should set fruit within 1 month from planting. Then, fruit set was allowed for 3 months and then stopped by deflowering all new flowers and fruitlets formed until the plant was cut back.