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- Author or Editor: Carlos Ramírez-Vargas x
The production of sweet peppers (Capsicum annuum) is often constrained in tropical environments by susceptibility to persistent soil-borne diseases, including bacterial wilt (Ralstonia solanacearum). However, the production of sweet peppers in high tunnels using sterile soilless media irrigated with nutrient solution offers the potential to reduce the incidence of bacterial wilt. An additional strategy for disease management is the use of sweet pepper scions grafted onto rootstocks that are resistant to soil-borne pathogens. Two sweet pepper cultivars grown extensively in the tropics, Nathalie and 4212, were used as scions and grafted onto the habanero pepper cultivar Habanero TEC (Capsicum chinense) and the aji pepper cultivar Baccatum TEC (Capsicum baccatum). Two cultivars related to the two rootstocks were prescreened for susceptibility to two virulent strains of bacterial wilt. Graft combinations were grown in two environments, a high tunnel with automatic nutrient solution irrigation of containers filled with sterile coconut fiber and an open field with known high levels of bacterial wilt inoculum. Self-grafted and nongrafted plants of scions were included as checks. The disease susceptibility screening showed that the area under the disease progress curve was consistently low for ‘Habanero TEC’ and ‘Baccatum TEC’ when inoculated with two virulent strains of bacterial wilt, suggesting that habanero pepper cultivars and, to a lesser degree, aji pepper cultivars may be useful as rootstocks in soils with bacterial wilt inoculum. Significant increases in yield, fruit number, and reduced time to flowering were observed in the high tunnel compared with the open-field environment. Individual fruit weight was reduced in the high tunnel compared with the field. Yield, fruit number, fruit weight, and time to flowering were consistent between scions regardless of rootstock. No differences were observed for yield, fruit number, fruit weight, or time to flowering of self-grafted and nongrafted scion checks. In the high tunnel, yield was higher in scions grafted onto ‘Habanero TEC’ compared with self-grafted and nongrafted checks. In the open field, yield and fruit number were highest on scions grafted onto ‘Habanero TEC’. Regardless of graft treatment, high-tunnel production in tropical environments can result in significant increases in yield and fruit number compared with open-field production. No advantage of grafted plants was observed in the high-tunnel production environment. In contrast, in the open-field environment, grafting sweet pepper scions onto pungent habanero rootstocks resulted in a significant increase in yield, fruit number, and fruit size compared with self-grafted and nongrafted checks. The increase was likely attributable to the resistance of habanero pepper cultivars to soil-borne diseases, including bacterial wilt.