Commercial Pepper Production Handbook

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Pepper (Capsicum sp.) is one of the most varied and widely used foods in the world. From the various colors to the various tastes, peppers are an important spice commodity and an integral part of many cuisines. Peppers originated in the Mexico and Central America regions. Christopher Columbus encountered pepper in 1493 and, because of its pungent fruit, thought it was related to black pepper, Piper nigrum, which is actually a different genus. Nevertheless, the name stuck and he introduced the crop to Europe, and it was subsequently spread into Africa and Asia.
Peppers were important to the earliest inhabitants of the western hemisphere as much as 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Plant remnants have been found in caves in the region of origin that date back to 7,000 B.C. The Incas, Aztec and Mayans all used pepper extensively and held the plant in high regard. Many of the early uses of pepper centered around medicinal purposes. Pepper has been credited with any number of useful cures and treatments, some of which are valid and some of which are probably more folklore.
Virtually every country in the world produces pepper. The bulk of pepper produced in the United States is sweet pepper, but hot peppers dominate in other countries. Globally, pepper production exceeds 14 million metric tons. California is the leading producer of sweet peppers in the United States. Fresh market production is a large part of the U.S. market, although processed peppers are common in all parts of the world as dried, pickled or otherwise processed products.
Pepper production has increased in recent years worldwide. That could be at least in part because of the high nutritional value of pepper. One medium green bell pepper can provide up to 8 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin A, 180 percent of Vitamin C, 2 percent of calcium and 2 percent of iron. Additionally pepper contains significant amounts of A and the B vitamins.
All peppers are members of the Solanacea family, which also includes tomato, tobacco, eggplant and Irish potato. There has been much debate over the years as to how many species of Capsicum truly exist. The number has fluctuated over the centuries from 1 to 90. Currently five species are recognized as domesticated. Among these are C. annum, which includes the bulk of cultivated types including bell, yellow wax, cherry, ancho, cayenne, jalapeno and serrano. C. chinense includes the habaneros and Scotch bonnet. Tobasco is the most notable variety in the C. frutescens species. The only important variety in the C. battacum species is the Yellow Peruvian Pepper. C. pubescens includes ‘manzano’ and ‘peron’ pod types. The classification of species will obviously continue to evolve in the future. There are an additional 20 or more species of wild types.

  • Pepper History, Scope, Climate and Taxonomy
  • Cultural Practices and Varieties
  • Transplant Production
  • Pepper Production Using Plastic Mulch
  • Irrigation
  • Physiological Problems
  • Lime and Fertilizer Management
  • Sprayers
  • Diseases
  • Insect Management
  • Weed Control
  • Harvest, Handling and Sanitation
  • Marketing
  • Production Costs
W. Terry Kelley
George Boyhan
University of Georgia