The life of households in Binh Phuoc has still balanced thanks to growing organic pepper. Despite erratic weather, pests, and unstable prices, pepper gardens are so green.

Starting to grow pepper in 1986, Mr. Phuong Thanh Tran in hamlet 10, Thien Hung commune, Bu Dop district (Binh Phuoc) has suffered many ups and downs. Thanks to pepper, up to now, Mr. Tran owns more than 40 hectares of land, including 15 hectares of pepper which have been certified organic. 

Visiting Mr. Tran’s garden, we are so impressed by thousands of poles of green pepper clinging to acacia trunks up to 6-7m high. The diameter of each tree trunk is more than one meter wide. More surprisingly, while a lot of local people’s pepper gardens in the area turn yellow because of diseases, Mr. Tran’s pepper garden is healthy and fresh.

Mr. Tran said, many years ago, he decided to learn about the organic growing process because he wanted to produce clean and safe goods for health. Especially in 2017, the pepper price started to go down, while the fertilizer price was increasing, not to mention the appearance of fake and poor quality fertilizers. Although Mr.Tran knew that the new model would be difficult, he was determined with his decision.

“Previously, I used chemical fertilizers and pesticides but now, even growth promoters are not used. The grass in the garden is cut by lawnmowers, then turned into compost. This is to both protect the environment and create the moisture and fertility for the soil, ” Mr. Tran said.

Digging a clump of soil around the root of the pepper and discarding the thin layer, we can see crawling worms. Mr. Battle added that, from the day he stopped using inorganic fertilizer, the soil in his garden has become increasingly porous, with high humidity. Beneficial ecosystems such as worms and insects are quite common. Besides, the fresh atmosphere in the garden is the motivation for him to successfully apply this model.

Despite erratic weather, pests, and unstable prices, pepper gardens are so green. (Photo: Internet)

“Practice makes perfect”

According to Mr. Tran, it is not easy to make such an organic model, requiring the farmer to be patient. To be successful, it is also necessary to set a specific roadmap. In addition, the farmer must have a certain knowledge of pepper. Finally, capital is also an important part of the success of the model. Pepper is a long-lasting plant. In case of favorable conditions, it takes at least three or four years from planting to harvest and the plant can live 15 to 20 years.

Mr. Tran did not hesitate to share his four principles to develop his pepper garden sustainably, namely: Growing pepper on alive poles; choosing healthy varieties; the ground having good drainage capability to ensure water sources all year round; fertilizing reasonably, actively preventing pests and diseases.

Accordingly, growing pepper on alive poles, especially on the acacia trees, not only helps the photosynthesis of pepper but also extends the exploitation time, limits dangerous diseases, and reduces the initial investment cost. Moreover, the acacia tree is leguminous, so it does not compete for nutrition with pepper, and its leaves can be used as a green fertilizer.

Regarding the varieties, it is recommended to choose the Vinh Linh pepper variety because it has good disease resistance. In terms of water, due to the characteristics of vines, the pepper plant needs a large amount of water all year round, especially in the stage of germination. Therefore, farmers need automatic irrigation systems to regulate the right amount of water, reducing labor.

“Especially be noted that the pepper plant is very afraid of flooding. Because flooding is one of the reasons for root failure causing the pepper to slow down its development. And, it is also the main cause of parasitic fungi. Therefore, the ground for planting pepper should have a gentle slope and drainage ditches. We should not plant pepper too deep and need to regularly pry the stumps to create thickness for the roots to grow”, Mr. Tran analyzed.

Regarding fertilizers, due to not using chemical fertilizers, it is necessary to choose animal manures with high nutrient content such as goats, chickens, and bats composted with the combination of microbial yeasts and organic fertilizers that are currently popular in the market. Besides, vegetation thickness is a measure of the effectiveness of the organic farming model. Therefore, it is necessary to retain the grass to shelter the beneficial microorganisms, retain moisture, resist erosion, create porosity for the soil, and help the plant absorb fertilizer quickly. 

A corner of an organic pepper garden. (Photo: Internet)

The price of organic pepper is high, no worries about the output

In recent years, along with prolonged low pepper prices, and high cost of materials, many farmers have lost their money because pepper is infected with diseases. However, Mr. Phuong Thanh Tran’s model of organic pepper cultivation has always maintained stable productivity, no diseases, ensuring quality standards, high prices, and pepper is ordered by many enterprises.

Speaking of production costs, Mr. Tran revealed that the core of organic agriculture is to make the soil porous, helping the roots thrive to fight against fungal diseases. Therefore, mainly in the first stage of implementing the model, it costs a lot for soil improvement. When the soil has formed an organic base, we only need a proper amount of fertilizer each year for the development of the plants, which helps lower the cost.

According to Mr. Tran, thanks to organic standard production, all of his pepper are purchased to export to Japan and Europe. While the pepper price on the market is around 80,000 VND/kg, his pepper is purchased at the price of 100,000 – 120,000 VND/kg. In the latest crop, his family harvested more than 10 tonnes of pepper, worth more than one billion VND.

“Besides high prices, the happiest thing is that the health of the growers and the environment is guaranteed,” Mr. Battle said excitedly.

Mr. Tran Van Thanh, Head of Agriculture and Rural Development Department of Bu Dop district, said that the locality has fertile soil but is scattered, each family only owns a few thousand m2 of land. Among perennial industrial plants, pepper is one of the plants suitable for local planning and brings high economic efficiency to the people.

On average, people can grow about 200 poles of pepper on 1,000 m2 of land. If we take good care of them, the yield can reach 600 to 1,000 kg. At the price of 80,000 VND/kg, people can earn a few tens of million VND/year after reducing costs.

Previously, the price of pepper was low, and people neglected to care, causing the area of pepper in the locality to decrease. However, many families still make money from pepper thanks to their persistence and new methods in line with the market demand.

“They are farmers who are sensitive to the integration period, dare to think, dare to do, decide to change their minds, improve the quality of pepper industry by organic products. When growing organic pepper, the farmer accepts the hardship, but in return, the selling prices in the market will be higher and Mr. Phuong Thanh Tran’s model is one such model “, Mr. Thanh shared.