Evaluating hot pepper varieties for yields under low tunnels and customer preferences

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2010: $4,232.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
David Vigil
East New York Farms!

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: peppers


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: marketing management
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, urban agriculture, community development

    Proposal summary:

    While attention to Asian and Latino food preferences has been growing, less research has been done on Caribbean customer preferences. This project will focus specifically on Caribbean customers' preferred varieties of Capsicum Chinense, ( a species which includes habanero and scotch bonnet pepper varieties). Results willb e publicized to the more than 50 urban growers in our network, and to other peer groups. We believe that there is a market beyond our local neighborhood for these peppers, as the Caribbean population in Brooklyn is estimated at almost 500,000. We propose to investigate growing three varieties of hot peppers in three different environments – a control group, one under low tunnel with floating row cover, and one under low tunnel with plastic. This will enable us to test three areas: - The yields of hot peppers in three different growing environments, including determining if we can use low tunnels to substantially extend the growing season for hot peppers - The yields of for four different varieties of peppers - Customer preferences among the four varieties of peppers grown

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The purpose of our experiment is to determine which varieties of C. chinense are the most popular at the market, the most productive in our climate, and to ascertain the ideal culture practices for our region.

    We will select four varieties of C. chinense for our trials, purchasing from Northeast seed sources when possible. The orange habanero (Johnny’s) has been our standby variety and we will grow it for the trials as our baseline. We will consult with farmers from Added Value in Brooklyn, the Queens County Farm Museum, and other area growers to get a general sense of their experience with C. chinense varieties. We will also visit the Oak Grove Plantation Farm in New Jersey, with grows over 150 varieties of hot peppers. Consulting other farmers will help us avoid common mistakes in our trials and selection of varieties, but won’t serve as a substitute for concrete data. Our access to a large Caribbean customer base and use of season extension techniques puts the UCC Youth Farm in a unique position to perform this research.

    Seedlings will be grown by John Ameroso, of Cornell Cooperative Extension, at the Gericke Farm on Staten Island. John has worked with ENYF! since its inception, and has grown hot pepper plants for us and other urban farms for many years. John will also assist with setting up the trial plots for project. The peppers will be transplanted on June 1st or as close to that date as weather permits. Plants will be spaced in 24” apart in staggered double rows. All of the beds will be irrigated with drip irrigation and covered with black plastic mulch to minimize weed competition and increase soil temperature.

    In addition to establishing the preferred varieties, we will be looking at inexpensive season extension techniques to see if they improve yield and ripening at the front end of the season. Though a high tunnel would be optimal, it is not practical for many of the urban spaces where we grow food in East New York and can be a costly investment for small-scale growers. Low tunnels are an inexpensive alternative that are cost and space-effective. We would construct low tunnels from PVC pipes and test two different covers: 6mil greenhouse plastic and floating row cover (Agribon 19). The plastic tunnel would be constructed to allow the sides to be raised for greater ventilation in the warmer months. All varieties will be planted in each of the two tunnels and outside to compare yields.

    To continue to attract Caribbean customers, including those from beyond our immediate neighborhood, we will post flyers for our market in Carribean neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn, and advertise our market in Caribbean Life, a New York area newspaper with a circulation of 130,000. These flyers and advertisements will emphasize our scotch bonnet peppers and other Caribbean products.

    We will also ensure that our network of urban growers benefits immediately from this project by building funds into our budget to purchase the seeds for the most successful pepper variety (as determined by our research) and providing these to local urban growers for the 2011 growing season.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.