Production and Marketing of a Novelty Specialty Pepper, Capsicum baccatum

Period of Performance: 01/01/2011 - 12/31/2011

$100K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Wilson`s Cedar Point Farm
66 Garfield Tartar Rd.
Nancy, KY 42544
Principal Investigator

Abstract

Certain types of specialty peppers may be desired by chefs. Capsicum baccatum, a relative of peppers commonly grown in the U.S. A, is a diverse species; both wild and cultivated forms occur in South America. However, cultivation of C. baccatum outside of South America is rare, and little scientific information is available with regard to cultivation of these relatively primitive cultivars of peppers. When produced in the open field in Kentucky, using production conditions similar to those for bell peppers (C. annuum), plants of one type of C. baccatum flower profusely in midsummer (July and August) but fail to set fruit during this time. Research conducted over a period of years has provided us a solution to mid-summer flower and fruit abortion, but several problems remain. Thus we are attempting to establish the feasibility of producing this specialty pepper in the open field in KY. Plants of this specialty pepper are phenotypically plastic, and display a response that is commonly recognized as shade avoidance. When mutually shaded (grown at close spacing), plants are tall and have few axillary branches. When grown at wide spacing, plants are shorter, with several axillary branches. We believe that the presence of axillary branches likely delays earliness of this specialty pepper. However, the presence of axillary branches, because of the fruiting pattern of peppers, may ultimately be beneficial in producing higher total yield per acre. Thus the ultimate production system(s) may involve a range of plant phenotypes. To begin sorting out optimal conditions for production of this specialty pepper, we have proposed an experiment that combines spacing and pruning so that effects of these factors and their interactions can be better understood with regard to early and total productivity. Ratios of red:far red light are known to mediate the shade avoidance response in plants, and it is also known that these ratios can also be modified by the use of colored mulches. Consequently we have also proposed an experiment to determine the effect of different mulch colors on branching, earliness and total yield. We have requested a 19-month project to allow conduct of these two experiments in season 1, and then during season 2, allowing evaluation of combinations of spacing, mulch color and pruning with a view toward developing one or more production systems that will ensure early as well as total yield. Marketing research will take place with peppers harvested from these field plots in both year 1 and year 2, allowing us to better develop the market potential of this specialty pepper.