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  • Author or Editor: Danise Coon x
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This study established the heat levels for several high-heat chile pepper (Capsicum chinense) varieties (Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Bhut Jolokia, Trinidad Scorpion, Douglah Trinidad Chocolate, and Trinidad 7-pot Jonah) to determine which variety has the highest average measured heat level and the relatedness of the chile peppers using molecular analysis. In replicated trials with appropriate controls at Las Cruces, NM, results show two ‘Trinidad Moruga Scorpion’ chile pepper plants reached more than two million Scoville heat units (SHU). This is the first confirmation of chile pepper fruit measuring more than two million SHU. A large range of heat levels was observed among the field plots—further supporting strong environmental effects on chile pepper pungency. ‘Trinidad Moruga Scorpion’ was significantly hotter than ‘Bhut Jolokia’, but ‘Trinidad 7-pot Jonah’, ‘Douglah Trinidad Chocolate’, and ‘Trinidad Scorpion’ did not differ significantly from ‘Bhut Jolokia’. Molecular analysis with randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers confirmed that the accessions are genetically unique. ‘Trinidad Moruga Scorpion’ belongs to the species C. chinense and is not the same chile pepper as ‘Bhut Jolokia’.

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Controlled abscission of floral structures is an important horticultural technique that has many applications throughout the growing season. A novel use of chemical abscission in chile pepper (Capsicum annuum) is the removal of open flowers and fruit for the production of breeder seed. For efficiency of abscising flower buds, open flowers, and fruit of ornamental chile peppers, two foliar spray treatment levels, 1000 and 2000 ppm ethephon were tested. Ornamental chile peppers were chosen because they are prolific flower and fruit producers, making removal of potentially cross-pollinated fruit and open flowers laborious. Flower bud and flower number were reduced with both 1000- and 2000-ppm ethephon treatments, while fruit number decreased only with 2000-ppm ethephon treatment. ‘NuMex Easter’ was more sensitive to ethephon treatment as compared with ‘Chilly Chili’ and ‘Riot’. Ethephon had no negative impacts on end of the season growth index, mature fruit number, and seed number. We found ethephon can reduce numbers of flower buds, open flowers, and fruit with no long-term effect on mature fruit and seed number, making it a useful tool for the production of breeder seed in chile pepper breeding programs.

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In the past, many ornamental chile pepper (Capsicum annuum) cultivars had to be pinched or sprayed with a uniconazole foliar application to achieve a dwarf, semidwarf, or compact plant habit. This study compares 12 currently available commercial ornamental pepper cultivars considered to be compact, and introduces 13 new ornamental pepper cultivars that do not require pinching or a uniconazole foliar spray to accomplish the desired dwarf or semidwarf plant habit. All 25 cultivars evaluated in this study were given either a dwarf or semidwarf classification based on industry standards. Of the 25 cultivars evaluated, 12 originate from and are commercially available and bred by various breeding programs, whereas 13 are new cultivars bred by the New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Breeding Program with the goal of having dwarf or semidwarf growth habits. Data indicate that the 13 new ornamental chile pepper cultivars did not require pinching or a chemical foliar spray to develop a dwarf or semidwarf plant habit and have the potential for commercial container production in the greenhouse and nursery industries.

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Chile peppers (Capsicum sp.) are one of the most important spices in the world and a significant vegetable, providing substantial amounts of vitamins A and C. Chile peppers are also used as a medicinal and lachrymator plant because of the characteristic burning sensation they cause when consumed by mammals. This sensation is caused by capsaicinoids that are alkaloids produced in vesicles inside the fruit. A novel class of chile peppers known as “super-hots” having greater than 1 million Scoville heat units have generated much interest. We compared the morphological structure of fruit pericarp and placental tissue of “super-hot” chile peppers to those of jalapeno and bell pepper. Most chile peppers including jalapenos, only produce the capsaicinoids in secreting vesicles found on the placenta. We report on the novel discovery that these “super-hot” chile peppers have developed accessorial vesicles on the pericarp tissue in addition to the vesicles on the placental tissue, thus leading to exceedingly high Scoville heat units for these plants.

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