BUILDING BETTER PEPPERS
Like playing with LEGO toys, developing a new cultivar is pure fun. You can combine many different traits in a species to come up with a living product that is NEW! AWESOME! and often USEFUL!
To teach undergraduate students the basics of genetics and plant breeding and to enhance their curiosity and interest in crop improvement, I have designed a novel long-term project to develop new cultivars of sweet and hot peppers.
Photo: Undergraduate student Tyler Baras planting a population of F2 peppers derived from a cross.
The genus Capsicum represents a wide array of fruit colors, flavors, shape, pungency and health-promoting nutraceuticals. Among the many different pepper traits studied by several groups in the World, some of the quality traits have received much less attention than others. We aim to fill this void.
We began this project in 2010, with initial funding from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Teaching minigrant. We use conventional breeding techniques to analyze the inheritance of shape, size, fruit colors, flavor and antioxidants in peppers. We also use DNA markers for select traits. Like a relay race, teams of undergraduate students continue this project semester after semester, while additional research by graduate students and visiting scientists enhance the work.
As of 2012 Spring, 8 Independent Study undergraduate students and 25 undergraduate students registered in VEC3221C Vegetable Production course, have participated in this project. These students have worked on collecting research papers relevant to the genetics of peppers, crossing different lines, growing the plants in the greenhouse and the field, documenting various characters of their fruits, extracting peppers for assessing their quality at the lab, documenting plant responses to stress via time-lapse photography, and preparing educational material potentially useful for the classroom in the future. You can expect publications and presentations in the near future and may be NEW and IMPROVED cultivars in the longer term!
Photo: Undergraduate student Ann Greene, Ph.D. student Aparna Krishnamurthy and Visiting scientist Dr. Lucianne Vilarinho, May 2012.
Funding is sought from every possible source for this novel teaching and research effort. Collaborations are welcome!
For more information, write to Dr. Bala Rathinasabapathi, University of Florida
E-mail brath @ufl.edu