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  • Why do we need new varieties of plants?
    New plant varieties play a pivotal role in addressing agricultural challenges. They enhance crop productivity, combat pests and diseases, adapt to changing environmental conditions, and contribute to economic prosperity. Additionally, new varieties may taste better, last longer, or be healthier than existing varieties, making them indispensable assets for farmers and consumers alike!
  • How do you breed new varieties of plants?
    We can create new plant varieties by doing the same thing that humans have been using for thousands of years - finding the best plants and saving their seeds! Plant breeders start by selecting individual plants that have superior characteristics and allowing them to pollinate each other. The resulting seeds from that pollination, or 'cross', display a combination of the traits of each parents. Breeders then grow those seeds into plants and examine each one to find an indivual with the best combination of traits from the parents. When a plant is found that has great flavor, quality, yield, and growing characteristics, breeders may decide to release it as a named variety. In a crop like pawpaw, that means grafting a branch from our new variety onto the roots of seed-grown pawpaw seedlings and distributing them to growers and gardeners.
  • Where does the funding for Project Pawpaw come from?
    Project Pawpaw is funded by the people, for the people! 100% of proceeds from the sale of merchandise and seedlings go towards supporting research and breeding objectives. We're also in the process of applying for grant funding to help us take on bigger, more ambitious projects!
  • Will these new varieties be GMOs?
    Nope! We'll be using traditional plant breeding, just like humans have been doing for thousands of years! Here is how we do it: 1) Choose one parent that has desirable traits and allow it to pollinate another parent with desirable traits to make a fruit 2) Grow the seeds from that fruit into trees and screen through the offspring to find individuals that have the best combination of traits from the parents 3) Repeat this many times, until you find a tree with all of the traits you are breeding for! 4) Distribute scionwood or grafted trees of your new variety to farmers for field trials in different environments, and then (hopefully) distribute to growers and gardeners
  • When will new varieties be released?
    Thats a tough question. To breed a new variety of apple, it typically takes about 15 years in an etablished and well funded program. We are starting from scratch, but we also have the advantage of being able to use some modern tools and technology to speed things up! While we work on breeding the next big pawpaw variety, we'll be sharing results from our research projects about the best ways to grow, harvest, and store pawpaws as well as working with other organizations to develop a market for pawpaw fruit and give growers the tools they need to be sucessful. It's a long process, so we'd better start now!
  • How many trees do I need to plant to get fruit?
    While some varieties of pawpaws may be self-fertile, we recommend planting at least two genetically distinct trees. This can be accomplished by planting two seedling trees or by planting two grafted trees of different varieties. The underlying genetic basis of this "self-incompatability" is poorly understood, but we are excited to learn more about it in our research!
  • What's the difference between seedling and grafted trees?
    Seedling trees: Seedling trees are grown from seeds, either from naturally pollinated trees or through intentional cross-pollination. These trees exhibit natural genetic variation, meaning each tree may have different traits just like how human siblings are each a little bit different from each other. This can lead to a diverse population of trees with varying characteristics. Grafted trees: Grafted trees are created through a process called grafting. This involves joining a desired tree variety (known as the cultivar) onto a rootstock of a different tree. Grafting allows for the propagation of exact genetic replicas of the desired cultivar. The resulting tree inherits the traits of the cultivar while utilizing the root system of the rootstock. The key difference is that seedling trees show natural genetic variation, while grafted trees maintain the specific traits of the cultivar they are grafted from. Grafted trees are often preferred when consistent and predictable traits, such as fruit quality or disease resistance, are desired. Seedling trees, on the other hand, offer a wider range of genetic diversity.
  • Can pawpaws be planted in full sun?
    While pawpaws grow and yield best in full sun, they will tolerate partial or full shade but will grow with less vigor and will produce fewer or smaller fruits. The most important thing here is timing! If a seedling has been grown in shaded conditions, it must be kept shaded for the remainder of that season. For this reason, we recommend planting pawpaw seedlings in tree tubes for the first growing season. The tube can then be taken off in the early spring before the tree has emerged from winter dormancy, at which point the pawpaw tree will be able to tolerate full sun.
  • Do pawpaws cause Parkinson's Disease?
    Pawpaws have been eaten by people in North America for thousands of years. The misconception that pawpaws may be linked to Parkinson's Disease stems from the fact that pawpaws produce a class of compounds called acetogenins. Acetogenins are found in many plant species, including several food crops around the world. Some acetogenins found to have neurotoxic activity have been associated with a rare neurological disorder called atypical parkinsonism. However, it's important to note that the levels of annonacin in pawpaw fruits are generally low and consuming pawpaws as part of a balanced and seasonal diet is considered safe. Initial studies suggesting the link between acetogenins and Parkinson's disease cited higher rates of atypical parkinsonism in populations of island dwelling people who consumed tea made from the leaves of the soursop tree as a regular part of their diet. These people exhibited a population-wide rate of atypical parkinsonism slightly higher than people in other areas, however this trend could also be atributed to genetic or environmental factors not accounted for in this study. We'll be selecting new pawpaw varieties with little or no acetogenin content out of an abundance of caution!
  • How many years until my pawpaw seedling bears fruit?
    The time it takes for a pawpaw seedling to bear fruit can vary. Typically, it takes around 4 to 7 years for a pawpaw seedling to reach maturity and produce its first fruits. However, the exact timing depends on various factors such as growing conditions, climate, and the specific cultivar of the pawpaw. It's important to note that pawpaw trees are known for their slow initial growth, but they can become productive and provide a bountiful harvest once they reach maturity. So, patience is key when waiting for your pawpaw seedling to bear fruit!
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Looking for more details?

Check out our learning center to see the latest pawpaw research!
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