UVALDE By themselves or as an ingredient in a variety of foods, including salsa, America's top-selling condiment, peppers have found a warm spot in the hearts and stomachs of U.S. consumers.
But while U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show consumption of fresh peppers at an all-time high, only a fraction of these are grown domestically.
Currently more than 70 percent of all fresh peppers consumed in the U.S. are imported from Mexico, and another 18 percent are imported from Canada, according to USDA data.
"Ironically, our domestic fresh pepper production has been declining steadily in a region renowned for its love of peppers the American Southwest," said Dr. Daniel Leskovar, a vegetable physiologist with Texas AgriLife Research.
To help Southwestern pepper producers perk up pepper production, Leskovar and other Texas A&M System scientists and agriculture experts have teamed up to develop several new adapted pepper plant hybrids.
Leskovar said U.S. fresh pepper production has declined significantly in the past decade due to global competition, labor issues, inconsistent market prices and inefficient agricultural practices.
"These factors, along with drought, plant disease and other challenges that are prevalent in the Southwest, have made it difficult for producers in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona to grow peppers profitably," he said.
"Pepper production in the Southwest is often marred by drought, heat and plant diseases, which cause severe plant stress and reduce marketable yields by up to 50 percent," said Leskovar, who works at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde.
Leskovar said that the objective of this research is to "maximize pepper production efficiency and improve the quality of specialty peppers so producers in these four states can increase their profitability."
"We developed several new cultivars that were more well adapte
|Contact: Dr. Daniel Leskovar|
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications