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Sweet Non-bell Peppers: Varieties, Production and Marketing

The Tomato Magazine
April 2007

By Timothy E. Elkner
Penn State Cooperative Extension

Sweet bell peppers are commonly grown on many farms throughout Pennsylvania. With the increased consumer interest in fresh produce, an opportunity
exists to grow additional types of peppers. Some growers have started growing hot peppers to meet the demand for this product. There is another group of peppers —sweet non-bell types— that may provide an additional crop to be grown to satisfy consumer interest and increase farm income. The purpose of this trial was to evaluate sweet non-bell peppers for yield and quality.

Six week-old transplants were set in raised beds covered with black plastic on July 9, 2004, at the Penn State Southeast Research and Extension Center in
Landisville, Pa. The beds were on 8-foot centers and the plants were set 18 inches apart. There were 12 plants per replicate and three replicates per variety (when there were suffi cient plants). The plants were irrigated, when needed, with trickle irrigation.

Standard fertility and pest management practices were followed. Peppers were harvested when color developed or at full maturity (depending upon cultivar) on the following dates: Sept. 9, 23 and 30 and Oct. 11. A fi nal harvest that included colored and all green mature fruit was done on Oct. 20. Fruit were counted and weighed at each harvest and graded into marketable and non-marketable fruit. The complete listing of varieties and harvest data are reported in Table 1.

Yields for many of the later season varieties are probably lower than can be expected because the plants in this trial were started late and transplanted to field later than normal. In addition, the cool, wet season delayed maturity so some of the later maturing cultivars never developed colored
fruit. The fi nal harvest included green mature fruit from all plants in order to get a reasonable estimate of yield potential.Phytophthora became a problem in some sections of the fi eld by the end of the season and contributed to lowered overall yields as well.

Super Greygo was the highest yielding cheese pepper. The yields for this entire group of peppers were lowered by severe corn borer losses in earlier fruit. Growers trying this type of pepper need to scout carefully and maintain a good spray program to reduce yield losses to this pest. The cheese peppers seemed to be the preferred host among all the pepper types in this trial. The average fruit size in this group was also low. This was likely a result of a heavy fruit set
and growers should monitor fruit set in their plants and may need to thin the fruit in order to get the more desired large fruit.

Lipstick and Antohi Romanian were the highest yielding peppers in the pimento types. Antohi Romanian fruit developed yellow and then turned red at maturity. A mix of mature and immature fruit of this variety made an appealing package and might be a useful way to market this pepper. Super Red Pimento and Yellow Cheese Pimento were more like the cheese types in shape and suffered from heavy borer damage as well. The Sweet Italian group of peppers contained fruit of different sizes and shapes, so it is difficult to make direct comparisons.

Growers should investigate potential markets before planting and choose their varieties based on preferences in their market. Navarone produced the largest
peppers in this group while Nardello Sweet was the smallest. Giant Marconi had the highest yield per plant. Biscayne was the highest yielding Cubanelle pepper. Key West was a nice medium green color but was the lowest yielding cultivar. As a group these peppers have no distinguishing features so unless
a potential customer is familiar with the Cubanelle types some education of the consumer may be necessary to make sales.

Overall, growers wanting to sell any new produce item will need to do some market research. For sweet non-bell peppers, one option would be to grow a limited amount of plants and do some test marketing. Choose one or two retail centers and evaluate the following: how much product was sold (what color?) and what did the seller need to do to move the product (in store education, recipes, etc.)? Growers may need to provide this information to the seller, so plan
on researching your crop. Recipes can be found on the internet as well as through your local Cooperative Extension offi ce. As you do your test marketing be sure to consider packaging options – can you add value to your peppers by packaging/preparing them in some way?

Another potential marketing option is supplying local restaurants. Be aware that you will need to sell to a minimum of eight to 12 businesses in order to make deliveries economical. While you will get a higher return per box, order size will be smaller for each operation. Also, to supply restaurants, you must be able to provide a consistent supply of high-quality produce. When trying to make initial sale, take the best sample you have and let the chef decide how he/she will
use the product. A good pepper should be able to sell itself in this market!

Additional information on the pepper varieties in the trial (sources, maturity) and photos of most can be found at: http://capitalhort.cas.psu.edu/Research.html.
Editor’s Note: Timothy E. Elkner is a horticulture Extension educator with the Penn State Cooperative Extension, 1383 Arcadia Rd., Room 1, Lancaster,
PA 17601. This presentation was taken from the 2007 Empire State Fruit and Vegetable Association onion/pepper session proceedings. Photos courtesy
of the author.

© 2007 Columbia Publishing

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