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Status and Prospects of Passion Fruit Production and Processing
Saturday, 16 January, 2016, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Dr P P Joy
Passion fruit, a native of tropical America (Brazil), belonging to the family Passifloraceae is a high value and export-oriented crop.

Passion fruit stands out not only for its exotic and unique flavour and aroma but also for its amazing nutritional and medicinal properties. The name "passion fruit" is not derived from any aphrodisiac quality of the fruit but was named, reportedly, by Spanish Catholic missionaries who saw in the flower, the symbolism of the Passion of Christ where "Passus" means "suffering" and "Flos" means "flower."

Passion fruit should more correctly be referred to as the passion flower fruit, but the trade more commonly uses passion fruit. Passion fruit is known in Hawaii as lilikoi, golden passion fruit in Australia, maracuja peroba in Brazil, and yellow granadilla in South Africa. Most of the species of Passiflora are native to the warmer moist regions of America, and many produce edible fruit.

It is a perennial, vigorous, climbing, woody vine that produces an edible round or ovoid fruit and has a tough, smooth, waxy dark purple hued rind with faint, fine white specks. Inside, the fruit is more or less filled with an aromatic mass of double-walled, membranous sacs containing orange coloured pulpy juice and as many as 250 small, hard, dark brown to black pitted seeds. Its fruits are rich in mineral salts and vitamins, especially A and C, and its juice has a wonderful aroma and flavour. It has many pharmacological properties. Passion fruit is used primarily for fresh consumption and the production of juice. It has become increasingly popular all over the world and it is used in jams, jellies, and fruit juices.

Types of Passion Fruit
Of the 600 species of Passiflora in the family Passifloraceae, only two species are cultivated, P. edulis Sims and P. quadrangularis L. P. edulis Sims, has the exclusive designation of passion fruit, preferably seen growing at an altitude of 800-1500 m above sea level. Within this species, there are two distinct forms, the standard yellow (Passiflora edulis f. flavicarpa Deg.) and the purple (Passiflora edulis f. edulis), differing in pH and starch content between the yellow (pH 2.8 and 0.06% starch) and the purple (pH 4.2 and 0.74% starch), with comparatively higher amylose content in former (8.7%) than latter type (5.8%).

In purple passion fruit, cool temperatures are favourable for flower initiation and fruit set (23-18 °C), while relatively high temperatures seem necessary for promoting juice production (23-33 °C) and improvement in quality. Yellow passion fruit grows under lowland tropical conditions, whilst, the purple type tends more to be cultivated in subtropical areas or at higher altitudes in the tropics. The purple passion fruit is native from southern Brazil through Paraguay to northern Argentina. While yellow from is of unknown origin, or perhaps native to Amazon region of Brazil, or is a possible hybrid between P. edulis and P. ligularis or a mutation from the purple passion fruit P. Edulis.

As an edible fruit, it contains several components such as acids and sugars, nutrients, and non- nutritive phytochemicals that make passion fruit a tasteful and healthy addition to the diet. Passion fruit is a high acid food (pH 3.2) due to the predominance of two acids, citric (93-96 % of total) and malic (3-6 % of total) acid. Passion fruit also contains about 14.45 g sugar/100g of edible portion, including fructose, glucose and sucrose, along with seven others in trace amounts. The acids and sugars add to the unique taste and serve as a preservative nature for the tropical fruit. Passion fruit provides a good source of nutrients such as Vitamin C (18.2 mg/100g of edible portion), Vitamin A (2410 IU/100g of edible portion) and potassium (278mg/100g of edible portion) and non-nutritive phytochemicals, carotenoids (9.25 mg/l) and polyphenols (435 mg/l). Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant that reduces free radical damage by scavenging oxyradicals. Vitamin A has important roles in the maintenance of vision and skin care, cell growth, and reproduction. Vitamin A can be obtained directly from the diet or derived from non-nutritive phytochemicals called carotenoids. In addition to being a vitamin A precursors, certain carotenoids such as P-carotene were found to have anticancer properties. In passion fruit, 13 different carotenoids have been identified, including zeta-, beta- and alpha-carotene, b-cryptoxanthin, and lycopene. Other non-nutritive phytochemicals found in passion fruit are polyphenolic compounds, which have been found to have antioxidant activity as well as anticancer properties. Only some of the polyphenolics such as the phenolic acids have been identified in passion fruit.

Passion fruit can be grown to eat or for its juice, which is often added to other fruit juices to enhance aroma. The fruit is eaten alone or in fruit salads, sherbets, ice cream, jams, cool drinks and as concentrates. The yellow variety is used for juice processing, while the purple variety is sold in fresh fruit markets. In Brazil, the majority of fruits in supermarkets are the yellow ones. The fruit has been used by the Brazilian tribes as a heart tonic and medicine, and as a favourite drink called maracuja grande that is frequently used to treat asthma, whooping cough, bronchitis and other tough coughs.

Passion fruit still occupies an important place in South American traditional medicine, and in Peruvian traditional medicine the juice is used for urinary infections and as a mild diuretic. In Madeira, the juice of passion fruit is given as a digestive stimulant and treatment of gastric cancer.

Kerala State
A scientific evaluation of passion fruit types for commercial cultivation in Kerala was successfully carried out at the Pineapple Research Station of Kerala Agricultural University during 2012-2015.

Over 150 passion fruit types studied, shortlisted to 14 and evaluated in detail, the purple passion fruit type 134P was identified and selected based on its superior growth, yield and quality parameters and recommended for commercial cultivation in Kerala. Large scale production and distribution of planting materials of the superior type is recommended. Popularisation of the new variety, package of practices, processing technology along with organised marketing will go a long way in boosting the production and utilisation of passion fruit in the state improving food and health security of the people.

Detailed studies showed that in passion fruit, germination of seeds started after five days from sowing and extended up to 30 days. The peak germination was observed on 13th day after sowing. The germination ranged from 18 to 95% and maximum germination of 95% was recorded by Kaveri followed by 142P (88%). 134P had 85% germination. The study on the vegetative propagation of passion fruit using two to five noded cuttings indicated that three to four noded cuttings were the most suitable for the purpose. The axillary buds of the cuttings started sprouting after 21 days of planting.

However, all the sprouted buds could not sustain their growth and many of the sprouts died later on.

Thus showing a decrease of recovery percentage with the passage of time. The maximum number of sprouts were observed on 28th day, which decreased slowly and the final recovery percentage was 46.6% after 36 days. Since the loss of water from the vine cuttings is very fast, regular irrigation to maintain 100% relative humidity is essential. Alternatively the cuttings can be planted during the beginning of monsoon season characterised by drizzling days or misty days.

The growth of passion fruit plants was characterised by an initial lag phase then a log phase of rapid growth followed by a stagnant phase and annual regrowth or flushing. The mean vine length was 234.56 cm at three months and 568.56 cm at six months after planting. Thereafter the vine length could not be measured precisely as it was extremely difficult. Thus the rate of growth of passion plant was 18.05 cm/week or 78.19 cm/month during the first three months and 25.71 cm/week or 111.33 cm/month during the next three months. The common diseases in passion fruit were wilt and foot rot caused by fusarium and phytophthora as identified by the Department of Plant Pathology, College of Horticulture, KAU. Some of the insect pests noted were thrips and fruit bugs and they were not very serious during any period of growth whereas wilt and foot rot recorded great mortality especially during the last year of the project. Proper drainage, lime application (100 g/plant), prophylatic application of pseudomonas and trichoderma and as a last resort application of suitable fungicides (drenching cursate M8 or moximate or ridomil MZ 1 g/l) were recommended by the department of plant pathology, College of Horticulture, KAU).

In the midlands of Ernakulam district, Kerala, passion fruit behaved as a photosensitive plant in flowering. Flowering occurred mostly during the period of February to November, in general. The onset of flowering started earliest on 20th February for Kaveri and the latest was on 7th May for 35Y.

Peak flowering was observed during June. The flower production slowly increased from February to June and declined slowly and ceased during November. The flower reached full bloom 10 – 14 days after flower bud formation. The fully grown flower bud started opening by about 10.30 am reached full bloom at 1.00 - 2.00 pm and drooped slowly and withered completely 18 - 20 hours after full bloom. Heavy bee activity was observed during flowering season which assisted pollination to a very great extent.

In passion fruit, the fruiting season was found to be March to December in the midlands of Ernakulam district, Kerala, in general. Fruit harvest was started in May, slowly increased, peaked in September, then decreased slowly and finished in December. The blooming nature of passion flowers indicated that pollination occurred the same day of full bloom as it withered within a day. The development of passion fruit started with successful pollination and fertilisation. Thus it takes 10 - 14 days from flower bud formation to full bloom; 70 days from full bloom to fruit ripening and 80 - 84 days from flower bud formation to fruit ripening and harvest.

Processing and value addition
Passion fruit juice tastes best when chilled and it is best fruit drink to consume during the hot summer days. Fresh passion fruit contains about 20-25% of vitamin C. It acts as an antioxidant. Passion fruit also contains vitamin B6 which helps our body to regulate blood sugar and also promote a healthy immune system. A variety of products can be prepared from passion fruit at farm level, pilot, small or large scale. Some of the products are passion fruit syrup, squash, jam, halwa, cake, wine, foam, lassi, pickle, payasam, pudding, cookies, crumble, soufflé, cheesecake, curd, passion fruit custard Slice and so on.

Passion fruit industry Processing units
Manipur has two units (Exotic Juices & one new), Nagaland three units ( Lungnak -closed down, Fruit &Veg. processing unit -Dimapur -Privatized & new - Mokokchung) and Mizoram one unit (new) for processing passion fruit.

The juice drink "Pasip" manufactured by Exotic Juices Ltd from fruit grown and processed in Manipur, having a capacity of 1.5 million litre is marketed by EcoVerse. Pasip is being marketed in all the major cities of India and will soon be exported . Large-scale passion fruit cultivation and setting up of a state-of-the-art processing complex with latest process know-how was made possible with the Much-needed support from SFAC, NEDFI, APEDA, MOFPI, SBI and Exim Bank.

There is an immense potentiality of boosting passion fruit industry in NER of India based on the following strength of the region.

The region has all sets of climate and sufficient rainfall for growing a variety of horticultural crops including passion fruit very successfully.

There is a great possibility of expanding its cultivation to the low- and mid-hill region for commercial scale production as there is still large tract of uncultivated land in the region.

Passion fruit in processed form like concentrates and RTS has tremendous scope of market both at national and international level because of its unique and excellent flavour and aroma.

Passion fruit and its different parts of plant having numerous medicinal properties has great scope for domestic and export markets.

Passion fruit industry can bring about much-needed employment opportunity in the region with not only its cultivation but also with setting up of more processing and semi-processing units in the region.

Constraints Lack of awareness
Passion fruit having a unique and excellent flavour and aroma has not reached the majority of the people even within the country due to poor or lack of publicity. Most of the people have not come across this fruit and its processed product which otherwise would have definitely captured their attention and boost the industry in the region.

Poor market linkages
As in many of the horticultural crops, passion fruit marketing both for fresh as well as processed or semi-processed products is also very weak and almost negligible except for the exotic juices which could manage an outlet in some parts of the country and is now in the process of export with the assistance of APEDA. Growers are apprehensive to expand the area under its cultivation without assured market of their produce. In a situation where there is no proper market channel, the growers will not expand the area under its cultivation which in turn will result in inadequate volume of raw materials for the processing industries.

Lack/inadequate processing units
There are only handful of processing units in the region. In fact, there is only one that is having the state-of-art facilities for juice extraction and making of concentrates of passion fruit. Some new units are coming up now in Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur, however these are too meagre to cater to the need. There are no semi-processing units in the region as well which would otherwise ease the transportation cost of bulk quantities of fresh passion fruit.

Poor infrastructure facilities
Poor or inadequate storage facilities and poor road connectivity to the production site results in huge quantitative and qualitative post-harvest losses in all parts of NER.

Low production and productivity
Despite the fact that passion fruit has a great potentiality in the region due to suitable climatic and soil conditions, the productivity and production is still very low which perhaps is a result of raising plantations with non-descriptive planting materials as well as poor crop husbandry. This crop is noted for its instability and unpredictability in production. Besides, the crop is also susceptible to various diseases and pests.

Lack of post-harvest management
Like for many of the horticultural crops, post-harvest management aspect of passion fruit is also not given due attention, thus resulting in loss of large quantity of the harvested produce and deterioration in quality of the produce.

Growing passion fruit is highly remunerative especially in hilly terrain whether northeast or south India. With more refinement in techniques involving accurate identification of nutritional disorders and reorientation, in site-specific constraint based-fertilisation programme, the heavy returns from passion fruit cultivation could be easily accomplished by bringing the desired improvisation in productivity level from the present scenario and simultaneously prolonging the longevity of productive life. High density planting with fertigation should be the ultimate aim of production management in the years to come, in order to match with frontline passion fruit growing countries. A concentrated effort is much needed in creating awareness, developing market linkages, strengthening of existing processing units and setting up of semi-processing and processing units, post-harvest management and creation of proper infrastructures and logistics. The above strategies if taken up would certainly boost the passion fruit production and processing in the country.

(The author is associate professor & head, Pineapple Research Station (Kerala Agricultural University),  Ernakulam, Kerala. He can be contacted at:
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