Untapped Hot Pepper Holds Key to Nematode
By Pat Sanchez
July 28, 1997
The spicy but little-studied Scotch
Bonnet pepper may hold the genes that Habanero peppers need to turn up the heat
against destructive nematodes.
The nematodes--microscopic wormlike organisms--live in the soil and infect
the plants through their roots, sapping yields and sometimes killing plants.
Scientists with USDAs Agricultural
Research Service have found that Scotch Bonnets are an untapped source of
genetic resistance to the southern root knot nematode, Meloidogyne
incognita. The researchers are breeding this resistance into the more
The hot Habanero is often used in spicy sauces, seasonings and other food
products. Both it and Scotch Bonnet--also a hot pepper--are in the same pepper
species, Capsicum chinense.
After tests of approximately 2,000 pepper plants, the researchers have
released three lines of nematode-resistant Scotch Bonnet peppers. Seeds of the
new lines--known as PA-353, PA-398 and PA-426--have been offered to about 260
seed companies. The seeds are not available for public distribution.
Ultimately, the researchers say, seed companies will use the Scotch Bonnets to
develop a nematode-resistant Habanero. This would be a first in the annals of
hot pepper breeding.
In greenhouse tests with both types of peppers,
ARS scientists inoculated the plants
with 3,000 nematodes apiece. In the field, they planted peppers in soil already
infested with the pests. Two months later, the scientists found that some of
the Scotch Bonnets warded off the nematodes. But all the Habanero plants were
Habanero seed is available from about 60 seed companies in the United
States. Only three companies carry Scotch Bonnets.
Scientific contact: Richard L. Fery, USDA-ARS Vegetable Laboratory,
Charleston, S.C., phone (803) 556-0840, fax (803) 763-7013,