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Colorful display of fresh TigerPaw peppers in Mason jars and wicker basket.. Link to photo information
TigerPaw-NR, a new habanero pepper developed and released recently by ARS scientists, is highly resistant to many important species of root-knot nematodes and is among the spiciest peppers ever developed. Click the image for more information about it.

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New Habanero Blasts Taste Buds—and Pepper Pests

By Marcia Wood
July 2, 2007

The super-hot, bright orange TigerPaw-NR habanero pepper offers extreme pungency for pepper aficionados, plus nematode resistance that will make it a hit with growers and home gardeners.

Plant geneticist Richard L. Fery and plant pathologist Judy A. Thies at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) U.S. Vegetable Laboratory, Charleston, S.C., put the pepper through three years of greenhouse and field tests before determining, in 2006, that it was ready for commercial fields and backyard gardens.

The firm, shiny pepper gets its name from its tiger-paw-like appearance. Its "NR" initials stand for "nematode resistant," a prized trait. The pepper is the first commercial habanero pepper resistant to attack by microscopic, soil-dwelling worms known as root-knot nematodes, according to the scientists. The nematodes are named for the knots, or galls, that form on damaged roots.

TigerPaw-NR can fend off the southern root-knot nematode, Meloidogyne incognita; the peanut root-knot nematode, M. arenaria and the tropical root-knot nematode, M. javanica.

Fery and Thies used conventional breeding to move the gene for this resistance, known as the "N" gene, from a parent plant into what became today's TigerPaw-NR.

Natural resistance offers a safe, economical, Earth-friendly alternative to applying methyl bromide, a soil fumigant that is being phased out.

So how hot is this habanero?

Tests using the standard Scoville Heat Scale show that TigerPaw-NR scores a fiery 348,634. Habaneros typically score 100,000 or higher, compared to the 3,500 to 5,000 range of jalapenos, for instance.

Read more about this pepper—the newest in the series of superior peppers from the Charleston laboratory—in the July 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.