Pepper (Capsicum annum) Cultivation, Conservation, and Soil Ecology in Low-Input and Certified Organic Agricultural Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2011: $19,585.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: Loretta Sandoval
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: peppers


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, technical assistance, workshop, youth education
  • Energy: energy use
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives, marketing management, value added, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows, riparian buffers, soil stabilization, wildlife
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, biological control, botanical pesticides, competition, cultural control, disease vectors, field monitoring/scouting, flame, integrated pest management, mating disruption, mulches - living, mulching - vegetative, row covers (for pests), sanitation, smother crops, traps, weather monitoring
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities


    The final field season in 2012 for the pepper conservation work entitled "Pepper (Capsicum annum) Cultivation, Conservation, and Soil Ecology in Low-Input and Certified Organic Agricultural Systems" was completed in winter 2012. The calculations and data interpretation was completed July 2013 and is summarized in this report.


    Landrace chile peppers (Capsicum annuum var. annuum, family Solanaceae) are descendents of chile peppers historically taken through the Spanish and Portuguese trading routes in the time period of 1492 to 1590 (Andrews 1984). These unique peppers are grown in the same field areas for decades or hundreds of years in New Mexico. The landraces, in general, have a high capacity to tolerate local biotic and abiotic stresses in high elevation areas and are acclimated to local weather conditions, including low water availability. The yields for the peppers are stable, even when grown under low-input agricultural systems. In high elevation villages such as Dixon and Chimayo, New Mexico, the landrace peppers have retained characteristics of the original peppers and continue to be saved by agricultural families. The peppers are an important part of the diet for both the indigenous New Mexican tribes and Hispanics in New Mexico.

    Bosland estimated that as much as 21% of the New Mexican Heirloom landraces have been contaminated by gene flow from improved open-pollinated (OP) cultivars (cited by Nabhan 2008), such as New Mexico “Sandia” or “Espanola Improved". OP cultivars are homogenous and are bred using traditional plant breeding methods (Bosland 2000). Landraces are heterogeneous, genetically diverse, and are well adapted to the locations where they have been cultivated (Bosland 2000). These seed collections would be good candidates for sustainable, low input systems.

    The landrace pepper seed banks and the nutritional source for traditional farmers are currently at risk of being lost, and fewer traditional farmers are growing these peppers in New Mexico. Our research focus is conservation and sustainability of the peppers as a traditional food crops and growing landrace varieties (LR var.) using both certified organic and low input agricultural field areas. The landrace pepper are also being grown in smaller plots that may not maintain the genetic characteristics of the original peppers. Overall our research focus is to understand the fertility requirements to grow the landrace peppers for organic or low input crop production, seed conservation of the landrace varieties, and to compare these with OP cultivars such as 'Anaheim' and 'Joe E. Parker' in different treatment conditions. With this information, our goal is to improve sustainable organic practices and improve the agricultural field ecology. During the trials our purpose is to share the information with local and regional producers to potentially improve their production practices.

    Project objectives:

    Objective 1: Compare each producer’s cultivation practices and individual landrace variety (LR var.) located at their farm sites (two certified organic, two pesticide free).

    Measures for the farm site trials will include random sampling in the five field areas for fruit capsicum and antioxidant level testing, pod fresh weight (green) and pod dry weight (red), and pod counts per plant on 50-100 plants per field area. Disease prevalence, maturity dates, and vigor will also be recorded. Fertilizer treatments if any will be recorded for the season before and during the trials that each individual producer adds independently in their respective field areas. No suggestions will be made unless the producers request general information for cover crops or organic fertilizers before the trials begin. Any applied fertilizer treatments or other beneficial soil additives (Cover crops, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, minor nutrients, humates, rhizobacteria or fungi) will be documented for each field area. These data would be collected for two seasons. Soil will be analyzed for baseline nutrient levels before the study begins.

    Objective 2: To compare two pepper types in one field area, one landrace variety (LR var.) from composition of all seed collections used in Objective 1 and one open-pollinated (OP cv.) cultivar.

    Each seed collection will be propagated in the greenhouse to determine seedling uniformity and vigor. Propagation trials in the greenhouse will be replicated three times. The landrace seedlings grown in the greenhouse will be transplanted in a row adjacent to each direct seeded field area to observe growth differences of direct seeded versus transplant (minimum 100 plants).

    Two fertility treatments will used: control (no inputs 2011), and a fertility program (cover crops and rock amendments P, K, micronutrients, beneficial mycorrhizae); two propagation treatments will be used (direct seed versus transplant). This results in a total of eight treatments. Treatments combinations will be replicated three times using a split-split plot design. Main plot will be fertility program, propagation method will be subplot, and pepper type will be sub-sub plot. A pepper type sub-sub plot will be a single row of 20 plants in 20 feet (see plot designs in Appendix 1). Measures will be same as Objective 1.

    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.