CHIANGRAI – Professor Anek Prateep Na Talang is a man with a mission, to promote the Poolae pineapple and promote proper agricultural practices among local farmers.
“There are two ways of farming”, he says. ” The artificial way, where selfish farmers try to kill everything except their own fruit trees. They take out the weeds and grass and make sure that there are no other trees left to compete with their fruit trees. Yes, it may seem good for their fruit trees, but the overall system is ruinous to the environment. Their trees are only growing because of all the chemical fertilizers and pesticides poured onto them. But you can still see that their trees have bug damaged leaves. To keep your tree completely bug free, more insecticide has to be used”.
“This is definitely a vicious circle. Over time more money is invested in chemicals in order to sustain their crops. This is the major reason why farmers are never be able to escape the trap of debt”.
Anek chose the natural, or organic way. He did not plow the land; he let the grass grow wild; he used some fertilizer, but only at a minimum rate. He is thus showing the farmer the way to escape from debt and also practicing a more environmentally friendly way of farming. With no chemicals and no burning, Anek can rest assured that his farming will not harm the environment or the people living in the area. He has also giving lectures in which he shares his experiences with other farmers.
Professor Anek Prateep Na Talang is a Math and Applied Statistics lecturer at the Chiang Rai Rajabhat University Of medium height, and in his late fifties, Prof Anek is well known as the ‘Pineapple Man’ after three decades of working with the fruit. He was the first person to bring Phuket varieties of pineapple into Chiang Rai when he moved here in 1977.
After a few years of growing the Phuket variety, Anek realized that his future as a pineapple farmer would not last long because Phuket is not really competitive with the local variety known as Nampeung.
“To be honest, we can’t say if the local varieties of pineapple in Thailand are either from Queen or Pattavia – the two families of pineapple. Phuket pineapples are genetically derived from pattavia, while Nampeung is derived from queen. Nampeung was already very popular and highly marketable. But the price of Nampeung was far more expensive than that of Phuket. Still I decided to try growing the Phuket variety here because it is a lot cheaper”.
When asked if he had genetically combined the Phuket variety and Nanglae variety and came up with the new variety called ‘Poolae’, Prof Anek rejected it strongly saying: ‘It’s all a misunderstanding. There is no way we could create a hybrid that way.
However Poolae, the new local variety, is still believed to be derived from Pooket and Nanglae. Some believe that Poo lae is actually derived from the hybrid pineapple of Phuket (pronounced ‘Poo’ instead of ‘Fu’), and ‘Lae’ derived from Nanglae. Thus the name, ‘Poo Lae’. The size of the pineapple is much smaller than both parent varieties, giving a more crispy texture and is more convenient to carry. Most important, it is now highly marketable.
It has also been added to the Provincial OTOP list of Chiang rai, and is served on Thai Airways flights.
‘Simply put , the size becomes smaller because of the space the pineapple bush has’, said Anek, ‘the smaller the space it has, the smaller the fruit will be .’ Anek didn’t discover this highly marketable Poolae intentionally back when he was experimenting with different growing techniques. After several years of full fledged modern farming, he began to realize that the more he aimed at making a profit and instigating growth to make profit, the more he lost money. Instead of employing the conventional chemical oriented farming technique, He left the land un disturbed but added some peanuts to ensure the land was fully covered. His Phuket pineapple garden was first left unattended. All he did was simply cut its rosette and just put it in the ground in the same area. He piled up leaves, branches and other scraps, and the soil became more fertile.
However he was initially a trifle pessimistic. He left his pineapples on the ground, thinking that they were not marketable. He was the only one selling the small pineapple. Surprisingly, it was highly popular and marketable because of its size. Soon he started supplying his pineapples to other pineapple vendors who at first, didn’t know how to peel off the skin and make it fit into one hand for carrying around and making it easy for the customer to eat.
It is unbelievable that a pineapple that was actually left to grow wild can inadvertently give you more profit. Based on this natural process, he could even make more profit because he could reduce the cost of fertilizer and labour to take out weeds and grass. Surprisingly, all the grounds are covered with weeds and grass which are giving moisture and high humidity to the plant. Then the earthworms take the over job of plowing for us. You don’t need to do anything; it is all cared for by Mother Nature.
By Dr.Kris Dhiradityakul