Pepper (Capsicum annum) Cultivation, Conservation, and Soil Ecology in Low-Input and Certified Organic Agricultural Systems
The second field season of the pepper conservation work entitled Pepper (Capsicum annum) Cultivation, Conservation, and Soil Ecology in Low-Input and Certified Organic Agricultural Systems was completed in 2012 and overall was successful and productive. The individual cooperator’s practices for propagating the landrace peppers were observed and recorded by farm. The ability of the landrace peppers to germinate in cold soil is unique compared to the ‘Anaheim’, which requires a much higher soil temperature. Other planting practices that were observed which resulted in a vigorous seedlings when compared to control did not require any additional fertilization. The overall incidence of disease, such as wilt, was very low and less than 5% in all cooperator field areas. Other major work and findings are that the cooperators increased the amount of peppers they have grown in the past few years from less than two acres to five acres combined, which resulted in over 300 pounds of dried pods and 200 bushels of green pods; an increase in two years of 40%. The dried peppers were also successfully sold at local farmers markets by two cooperators and are being marketed to local Co-ops in 2013, which will increase income for the cooperators.
- Compost tea trial pepper control 2011
- Direct seed open pollinated pepper plot 2011
- Landrace pepper in cooperator field 2011
- compost tea trial 2011 seeds soaked in compost tea prior to planting
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).
The individual cooperators/farmers’ practices were observed and recorded by farmer. Direct seed planting was conducted extremely early, from April 10-May 10, when ground temperatures were low (45-50F) and germination took three-four weeks. The ability of these seed banks to germinate successfully in cold soil temperature is a unique characteristic of the landrace peppers. Some participants soaked the seed in compost teas(well-aged) for 24-48 hours before planting. When plots were observed, the seeds that were pre-soaked in ‘compost tea’ were more vigorous and overall greener then control plots. No other fertilizer was added to the plots. In 2012 another Cooperator attempted this propagation method and treated four 150 foots with compost tea and four rows as control (both 24 hour soaked either with tea of plain water). The same overall trend was seen; the rows that were treated with compost tea were overall more vigorous and greener.
Each farmer harvested and dried pods in a variety of different techniques, including weaving the red peppers into ‘ristras’ or drying the peppers on racks, tarps or wire mesh. Nutritional testing was performed in 2011 for Capsisum levels, and the landraces ppm values were 5-10 times higher than the ‘Anaheim’ peppers in the plot study. 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 also be transplanted in a row adjacent to each direct seeded field area to observe growth differences of direct seeded versus transplant (minimum 100 plants). Seeds from 2010 and 2011 were collected from each farm by randomly taking two ounces from their seed collections. The seeds were propagated in the greenhouse with sterile mix (perlite with sphagnum moss OMRI registered), and seed germination rates were recorded for both controls and fungi inoculated plots. The seedlings grown as transplants both years were used in the formal plots; each farmer’s seedling collection from prior year was randomly added to the appropriate landrace plots. Overall germination rates were recorded and results will be presented in final report. Landraces had higher germination rates than open pollinated ‘Anaheim’.
Performance Targets Year 1 and 2:
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 date and overall 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.
The capsicum analysis was performed in year 1 and the samples freeze-stored for further testing. Statistical analysis will be performed early 2013 and submitted with final report. Overall the landrace varieties have 5-10 times the Capsicum levels as the Anaheim peppers. The second year samples collected are dried and will be sent for capsicum testing in February 2013. The landrace peppers, which are thin-skinned, dry faster than the Anaheim peppers. After all the peppers have dried, they are are sent for analysis together. The vitamin C analysis could not been performed as of yet, due to the cost of testing being more expensive than anticipated. Soil analysis was conducted for formal block areas and other farm areas. Overall, the nutrient levels of all areas are low NP and average K available and pH is above 7.3. Any fertility additives were recorded for all field areas. The fertilizer programs overall do not include mineral fertilizers of NPK and, instead, the farm areas are either planted with field peas, sugar snap peas or clover in the spring of the planting year or spread with manure (very light approximately inch depth or less) in the fall of prior year.
Disease prevalence: Wilt disease for 2011 and 2012 was relatively low in most farmer and formal plots areas (less than 5%). An interesting trend was noted that in some producers’ plots there were indications that wilt was prevalent in 2010 before the trials began, then with treatments in 2011 with Bacillus subtilis (Serenade ASO), wilt and post harvest pod disease decreased. Two farmers continued to use Serenade ASO in 2012, and wilt for all plots continued to be less than 5%.
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.
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. Treatment 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. Measures will be same as Objective 1.
The formal split-split plot studies were executed successfully in both year 2011 and 2012 in Sandoval’s field area. The fertility treatment in year 1-2 was amended in planting areas with mycorhizzae fungi and the control had no treatment. In 2011 the plots were set up in a high weed pressure area (bindweed) with no prior cover crops planted that was labor intensive, but overall, no other problems were noted as far as field site. The pepper plot in 2012 had less weed pressure since grass and clover cover crop were planted the year before. Both growing seasons experienced severe drought in New Mexico (2011: less than 7” rain/season, 2012: 4” rain/ season) in addition to high winds. Plots were flood irrigated once weekly on a strict schedule and timing. As stated in the experimental design, eight treatments and three replicates were done. In both 2011 and 2012 the pepper plots (Anaheim and Landrace accessions,) with both transplanted seedlings and direct seeded seedlings, had poor to strong growth. The landrace (designated LR) that was direct seeded (DS) in the ‘fertility treatment’ plots and the ‘control’ were very similar plant size and germination %, but the transplanted landrace (LR, TP) seedlings were weaker, less upright, less vigorous plants and performed poorly both in the control plots (no nutrients) and the fertility (mycorhizzae applied) treatment areas. The conclusion of this observation is that the landrace peppers are not good candidates for tranplant grown and perform better when direct-seeded. The ‘Anaheim’ (designated open-pollinated OP) direct seeded plants and transplants had a similar trend as the landraces. The directed seeded plants were more vigorous for both the control and the fertility plots, and the transplants were smaller less vigorous plants, but were more upright then the landrace transplant plots.
- Germination trials with Landrace and “Anaheim’ peppers control (left) versus fungi applied (right)
- Drying landrace pepper pods on tarp 2011
- Germination trials 2011
To measure adoption success or reaction to new soil and plant management tools, each producer will be interviewed with surveys and participate in open discussion during field days or producer meetings in 2013. The survey will also contain adoption success measures such as understanding if plant health (wilt incident in peppers) changed, remained the same or improved.
The majority of cooperators implemented new practices, including use of cover cropping, sanitation improvements (removing dead plants after season) and IPM methods. Plant diseases were minimal, with less than 5% wilt on any plot. In the split-split plots, most plots had fair to good germination both in the landrace and Anaheim plots. Since three replicates were done, the block study was not impacted as far as collection of pods for analysis.
Cooperators also participated in meetings and field days. In 2011 one field day was held with a small group and each cooperator’s field was toured. In 2012, a large group from Western SARE in cooperation with New Mexico State University toured the plot trials and research farm. During marketing events at local farmers market and holiday fairs the landrace conservation project was discussed with customers and information was given to customers, including the history and project status. The conservation and marketing campaign was very successful and well-received by customers.
At the Organic Farm Conference (Farm to Table event, Albuquerque, New Mexico) to be held in Febuary 2013, a poster with results, purpose of the study, samples and brochures will be displayed for farmers at the meeting.
Other work that will be completed will be the statistical analysis of the pod weights, heights, capsicum concentrations, and comparing the formal plots and the individual farm areas of the cooperators and farmers. Analysis of vitamin C content will be pursued at University of New Mexico by submitting a mini-grant to the department of chemistry to analyze peppers for antioxidant levels if possible. In 2013, the survey example will submitted for approval, then administered to the cooperators. Data analysis will be completed for final report submission. Marketing of the peppers will be continued for 2013 on Zulu’s Petals website (http://www.zuluspetalsfarm.com/Services.html and http://www.zuluspetalsfarm.com/Products.html) and other venues.
- Handout given to customers at Santa Fe farmers market 2012
- Field day 2012 Western Sustainable Agriculture and Research (WSARE)
- Landrace pepper plant with first fruit 2012
- Landrace pepper product packaged for retail sales 2011
- Landrace pepper plot: has been grown in Field #7 167 seasons
- Cooperator dried pepper product at farmers market 2012
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The project to conserve the landrace pepper seed banks and create public awareness that they were endangered was a success in 2011 and 2012. In field trials the landrace peppers use very little added fertilizer in the soil, need minimal irrigation and have minimal disease issues. Field days were well attended and created both local and statewide awareness to protect these ‘heritage’ crops that have been cultivated in New Mexico for more that 100 years. Marketing small packages with information for the consumer about the history of the peppers was also well received. The cooperators in the study have increased the production of the landraces and have implemented new practices such as cover crops and field sanitation to enhance stabilzation of the seed banks. Analysis of the landraces for nutritional quality is ongoing and will strengthen the ability to compare the peppers.
Zulu’ Petals Farm and Nursery
P.O. Box 102
Dixon, NM 87527-0102
Office Phone: 5055799647
P.o. Box 68
Dixon, NM 87527-0068
Office Phone: 5055794623
P.O. Box 96
Embudo, NM 87531
Office Phone: 5055794027
New Mexico State University
P.O. Box 159
Alcalde, NM 87511
Office Phone: 5058524241
Rancho Arco Iris
P.o. Box 220
Dixon, NM 87527-0220
Office Phone: 5055799141
Martinez Produce and Apples
County Road 70
Dixon, NM 87527
Office Phone: 5055794309
P.O. Box 241
Dixon, NM 87527
Office Phone: 5055799112
Dixon, NM 87527
Office Phone: 5055794227