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‘Bare-foot scientist' helps farmers with innovation

Update: December, 05/2015 - 09:55
Le Van Hoa, a farmer in the southwest of Viet Nam is being hailed by local residents as King of green-skinned grapefruit since he owns a remarkable grapefruit variety. — Photo

BEN TRE (VNS)— A farmer in the southwest of Viet Nam is being hailed by local residents as King of green-skinned grapefruit since he owns a remarkable grapefruit variety.

Le Van Hoa, 68, from Son Dinh Commune in Ben Tre province's Cho Lach District, is also known a "bare-foot scientist." Through self-learning, he has created new farming techniques which have brought about high value products for fruit growers, especially green-skinned grapefruit — the province's specialty.

Hoa had a strong attachment to gardening since he was a small child because his parents were farmers. With an area of 5,000 sq.m of land given to him after he got married, he started to grow orange, lemon and tangerine trees.

His family faced financial difficulties since farmers with bumper crops were seeing small profits due to price declines.

In 1998, he decided to chop down all the trees in the garden and plant grapefruit instead for its high quality and high yield, Hoa said. He believed that it soon would become popular with Vietnamese consumers in the future.

Three years later, the trees bore fruit for the first time. Since then, he began experiments on the grapefruits. It was in 2003, he found a new method to make grapefruit trees bloom at a selected branch.

"My technique is cutting off leaves on optimal branches to determine fruit locations. By doing so, I can have bigger fruit and better quality than normal ones," he said.

The technique was promptly appreciated by scientists and researchers and widely applied to local farmers and surrounding areas.

Not satisfied with the success, he tried to learn new methods to improve the fruit's quality.

After a visit to some places which were famous for grapefruit variety in the North in 2006, he discovered that grapefruits there had more seeds than the ones grown in the south western region. Then, the idea of creating a seedless grapefruit variety arose on his mind.

Assuming that green-skinned grapefruits have no seeds in nature and may be cross pollinated, leading the fruits to have seeds, Hoa started to use zinc nets and special "cages" to cover the flowers to prevent bees from interfering with the tree's self-pollination.

The result was a big surprise as he got seedless grapefruit on the first trial in 2007.

"Cutting off leaves to determine fruit locations and covering the fruits with nets to prevent direct sunlight helps not only retain the green colour of the fruit but also avoid insect infection," he said.

Mastering precious cultivation experience, his family has become well-off.

With a 5,000-sq.m orchard, Hoa got yearly income of VND400 million (US$18,000) from selling seedless grapefruits. He also earned around VND300 million ($13,600) a year from selling saplings.

His name is closely associated with Hai Hoa green-skin grapefruit. That kind of grapefruit earned him the first prize in a good grapefruit variety competition organised by the Southern Fruit Research Institute in 2005.

Despite enduring hardship to become a successful farmer, Hoa was willing to share his cultivation experiences with fruit growers and experts who visited his orchards.

"Many farmers from Binh Phuoc, Binh Duong, Dong Nai provinces come to my house to seek advice on how to grow and care for fruits. In their eyes, I gradually become an agricultural expert," he said.

With the success of seedless grapefruits, he has been invited to be a speaker at a workshop on the sidelines of the annual Parade Pangan Nusantara agriculture fair for Southeast Asian farmers held in Indonesia in January last year.

"I was happy to be the only farmer invited to speak at the workshop along with an expert coming from Thailand," he said.

When asked about his plans for the future, Hoa said, "I wish that I can spread this technique to farmers across the country so they can produce valuable and high quality products." — VNS

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