In Maine and other parts of the northeastern United States, there is a consistent, strong market demand for high-quality, locally grown bell peppers. However, optimal temperatures for pepper production are between 60 to 80 °F (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997), and open flowers are prone to abortion under cool nights with temperatures below 50 °F (Wien, 1997). The growing season in Maine is short and cool with great fluctuations in temperature. Temperatures below 50 °F and over 80 °F are not uncommon and can often occur within a 24-h period (Fig. 1). This makes bell peppers challenging to grow in this region.
Although use of season extension technologies such as plastic mulch and rowcovers are common throughout the region to warm the soil and increase the temperature in the environment directly near the plant (Wells and Loy, 1985), these technologies have not been able to completely overcome the area's climatic disadvantages. Selection of cultivars that can produce good yields of high-quality bell peppers under these relatively difficult conditions is essential for the commercial success of this crop in northern climates. The objective of this research was to identify cultivars that will produce consistently large yields in a northern climate and to evaluate the characteristics of the harvested fruit to make recommendations for this region.
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