Habanero pepper (Capsicum chinense Jacq.) is a very important crop in Mexico and demand for it is increasing in national and international markets. The habanero pepper produced on the Yucatan Peninsula is considered of superior quality to that grown in the rest of the world as a result of its shelf life and pungency. Despite its importance, little research has been done on cultivation conditions that may affect its productivity and fruit quality. The effect of N or K fertilization on habanero pepper development and fruit pungency was evaluated. Plants under fertilization stress (control) had high capsaicin content. Nitrogen fertilization significantly increased plant growth and fruit while maintaining high capsaicin levels. Optimum response was produced with 15 mm urea as the N source. Potassium fertilization had no positive effects on growth or productivity. The N treatments modified endogenous K levels in the pepper plants and vice versa. The K : N ratio (specifically in leaves and roots) varied between treatments with values greater than 1 in the K treatments, near 0.5 in the control, and less than 0.5 in the N treatments. This parameter may be an important indicator of habanero pepper productivity and requires study under different fertilization regimes.
Dynamics and distribution of K, Ca, Mg, P, and Na were studied in leaves of three cultivars of habanero pepper (Capsicum chinense Jacq.) at the time of transplanting and 8 and 14 weeks afterward. Most nutrients analyzed were mobilized from younger to mature leaves, except for P, which occurred in the opposite direction, probably due to its role in the synthesis of nucleic acids, which is more active in young tissues. Information about mineral distribution in leaves during the first 14 weeks after transplantation could be used to indicate plant nutritional status and fertilizer requirements.