Pepper Plants Developed by ARS
By Kim Kaplan
March 18, 2004
Pepper plants not only produce tasty
garden vegetables, but also can be just plain pretty. Scientists with the
Agricultural Research Service have bred
a new duo of ornamental peppers for the home and garden.
Tangerine Dream, the first of the new pair of peppers from ARS, is already
available commercially. The plant produces small, orange, banana-shaped edible
fruit on a prostrate plant and makes an attractive ground cover for the garden.
A second variety, to be released this summer, also features novel fruit and
foliage that should appeal to the same market as the popular black-leaved sweet
ARS plant geneticists John Stommel and Robert Griesbach were drawn to the
idea of developing these new colorful ornamentals for the garden and the house
because considerable diversity exists in the Capsicum (pepper) genus for
fruit and leaf shape, size and color. Stommel is with the agency's
Vegetable Laboratory, and
Griesbach is with the Floral and
Nursery Plants Research Unit, both part of ARS's Henry A. Wallace
Beltsville Agricultural Research
Center in Beltsville, Md.
The new varieties were developed jointly with the
Pan American Seed Co. of Elburn, IL.
Additional research and development of more new varieties continues with
McCorkle Nurseries Inc., of
Ornamental peppers have become a profitable crop for house plant growers as
well as an alternative for home gardeners. The ornamental plant market in the
United States is worth nearly $5 billion annually.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief research agency.