Along with cultivar development, the team also is investigating strategies for overcoming other challenges to Southwestern pepper production. Some of these include working with regional producers on more efficient irrigation and cropping techniques, and developing a cropping system more suitable to machine harvesting.
"After drought and disease, probably the biggest obstacle to pepper production in the Southwest is labor," Leskovar said. "Pepper harvesting is very labor-intensive because it's done almost exclusively by hand. And it's also difficult for producers to find adequate labor when it's needed."
The team already has tested numerous jalapeno, green chile and Habanero lines in Texas and New Mexico to determine suitability for machine harvesting."We've developed pepper plants that have less foliage, bear more fruit and require less labor-intensive harvest," Leskovar said.
He added that the new cultivars also are being bred for higher amounts of vitamin C, phytochemicals and antioxidants.
"Peppers are a good source of dietary fiber and contain a number of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are known to promote human health," Leskovar said. "And research on capsaicin, the ingredient that makes peppers hot, has shown it has some positive uses for human health and wellness."
According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, capsaicin is already used as a "topical anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory agent" and is "generally recognized as a powerful local stimulant with no narcotic effect."
Additional research indicates capsaicin may have cancer-fighting properties and facilitate insulin production. It also has been identified as a useful pharmacological component in treating chronic pain.
|Contact: Dr. Daniel Leskovar|
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications