2004, ARS News Service: Growing hot peppers
organically in Florida is a viable option for growers
because insect pests are not a significant threat to
hot peppers there, according to findings from an Agricultural
Research Service scientist and her collaborators.
The study compared the growth of hot peppers in two different
systems. In one, peppers were grown using organic soil
nutrients, including poultry manure and mushroom compost.
In the other, peppers were grown with chemical fertilizer
and conventional pesticides.
While bell peppers are the second most important vegetable
crop in Florida, many producers also have significant
acreage devoted to hot peppers.
Jesusa C. Legaspi, an entomologist with the ARS Center
for Biological Control on the campus of Florida A&M
University in Tallahassee, Fla., recently reported the
results from a study of Scotch Bonnet and Caribbean
Red hot pepper varieties. She collaborated on the study
with scientists from Florida A&M and the University
of Florida in Gainesville. The Center for Biological
Control is a field office of the ARS Center for Medical,
Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville.
There was no difference found in the number of peppers
harvested from either organic or chemical fertilizer
plots in either variety.
Populations of plant insect pests and their beneficial
natural enemies were also studied. Populations of several
insect pests, including whiteflies, aphids and thrips,
were very low during the growing season, probably due
to the presence of their natural enemies, ladybugs and
In north Florida, small growers are finding a viable
niche market producing hot peppers. Results show hot
peppers may be a good market for growers there because
they seem to require little maintenance.