Passionfruit Australia are members of Plant Health Australia and represent the biosecurity interests of passionfruit growers and the industry.
In 2016–17, passionfruit production was valued at $17.2 million (LVP). There are currently around 300 hectares of passionfruit under cultivation in Australia with about 400,000 passionfruit vines. They produced 4,790 tonnes of fruit in 2017–18.
About two thirds of the Australian passionfruit crop is grown in Queensland and around one third in NSW. The industry is starting to expand in WA and there are new plantings in the NT and Victoria.
Passionfruit is grown year round, but main supply times to market are December through to September. The main purple passionfruit varieties grown are Misty Gem and Sweetheart, and the major Panama passionfruit varieties are Pandora and Panama Red. A National Breeding Programme is continuing with the goal of developing new commercial varieties in the next five years. New varieties bred in the NT designed for tropical regions are also in the process of being commercialised.
At present, there are still minimal amounts of passionfruit exported, and the industry is yet to develop a concrete plan for exports.
Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis) is a perennial, vigorous, climbing, woody vine that produces edible round or ovoid fruit with many small seeds. The passionfruit is one of an estimated 500 Passiflora species from the family Passifloraceae which are native to southern Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina.
The flowers of passionfruit are self-fertile due to the flower morphology, being structured so that the anthers are placed below the stigmas. Additionally, plants can be either self-compatible or self-incompatible depending on their variety. The purple passionfruit is mostly self-incompatible; however, some selected varieties and hybrids may show signs of partial self-incompatibility and should not be planted in large blocks of a single variety. On the other hand, the yellow passionfruit (Passiflora edulis Sims f. flavicarpa Degener) is almost entirely self-incompatible and requires cross-pollination with another cultivar to set seeds and fruit. In addition, the amount of pollen deposited on the stigma during pollination determines the number of seeds set and size of the fruit. A passionfruit can develop as many as 350 seeds and unless at least 100 ovules develop into seeds then the fruit is likely to be hollow, light in weight and have little juice.
The pollen is heavy and sticky; making wind pollination ineffective thus pollen transfer must occur via pollinating insects or manual hand pollination where populations of pollinating insects are insufficient. Honey bees and carpenter bees (Xylocopa sonorina) are the primary pollinators of passionfruit; when abundant the carpenter bee is a more efficient pollinator due to its foraging behaviour and larger size. Carpenter bees, which can be found in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia, have also been found to be much more efficient pollinators of passionfruit overseas in the Philippines and in Sao Paulo. Unfortunately however, carpenter bees are not strong enough in numbers or are non-existent in some areas, whereas honey bees can be established in strong colonies almost anywhere and are still able to pollinate reasonably effectively.
Honey bees visit the passionfruit flowers for both nectar and pollen. Research conducted in Florida studied the floral biology and pollination of yellow passionfruit and showed honey bees as the sole pollinators. Results from the study revealed 25 per cent greater fruit set on all open flowers compared to bagged flowers as a result of honey bee pollination. In Australian passionfruit crops, honey bees are the primary agent used in the transfer of pollen with recommended beehive densities of 2–3 hives per hectare. Pollination of passionfruit by bees has also gained in importance with anecdotal observation by various growers in Queensland that fruit set is enhanced when hives are located nearby.
Additional fact sheets and web links about the pollination of papaya are listed below. Please be aware that some of the information was developed overseas, and environmental and seasonal variations may occur.
Passionfruit pollination fact sheet, The Pollination Program (Agrifutures Australia and Hort Innovation)
Passionfruit, Purdue University, Indiana
|Annual value of passionfruit production 2007–17|
|Distribution of passionfruit production by state and territory 2016–17 (based on LVP)|
The pollination text is an excerpt from Passionfruit – pollination aware fact sheet (2010). Agrifutures Australia Publication No. 10/081
The industry overview and graphs on the value of production and crop distribution are from the National Plant Biosecurity Status Report (2018), Plant Health Australia, Canberra