Vietnamese farmer invited to lecture at Southeast Asian fair

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Le Van Hoa puts a net around grapefruit flowers to prevent pollination by bees, which he discovered causes fruits to have seeds . Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

A self-taught farmer in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre was invited to an international conference in Indonesia to talk about growing grapefruit, including seedless ones.

Le Van Hoa, now in his 70s, owns a 5,000-square- meter pomelo garden which fetches him more than VND300 million (US$14,240) a year.

He also supplies more than 20,000 pomelo saplings every year by grafting branches from the best ones.

“I thought the invitation was a joke,” he said.

At the annual Parade Pangan Nusantara agriculture fair for Southeast Asian farmers from January 15 to 19, he was invited to speak about his techniques to produce fruits without seeds and control where on a tree fruits will grow.

He said he was nervous about speaking in front of many international experts, but also confident in his dozens of years of experience.

His trick to eliminate seeds is to cover the flowers with zinc nets and cages to prevent bees from interfering with the tree’s self-pollination.

“I thought that maybe cross pollination causes the fruits to have seeds.”

He started to put nets on some flowers and marked them, and indeed they produced fruits without seeds.

He tested it two more times before starting to promote the new product in the market.

The nets also help reduce the use of chemicals “to protect the environment and the health of the farmers as well as the consumers,” he said.

He also determines the fruit locations by first selecting the optimal branches and then removing most of the leaves on them to enhance nutrition for flowers, a common practice among Vietnamese farmers.

He has shared the techniques with farmers and experts visiting his garden, and has rejected offers to copyright them.

“I’m going to die soon, what is the point of keeping the knowledge to myself?"

Hoa was the only farmer sharing his cultivation experience at the fair, which was more about agricultural tools and machinery.

Nguyen Minh Chau, head of the Southern Horticultural Research Institute, which received Hoa's invitation for the fair, said he was not too surprised about it.

“Hoa has been working effectively on his field and he has many new ideas,” he said.

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