NC Cooperative Extension Resources

Authors:

Photo of
Extension Horticultural Specialist
Horticultural Science
Photo of Charles Averre
Professor Emeritus
Plant Pathology
Photo of Kenneth Sorensen
Extension Specialist (Fruits & Vegetables)
Entomology

Introduction

By following the steps listed below, you will be able to produce earlier peppers with higher yields and better quality. (For more complete information, consult Extension bulletin AG-387, Commercial Pepper Production in North Carolina.)

Varieties

Use one or more of the following varieties that have performed well in North Carolina:

  • Bell - Keystone Resistant Giant Strain 3 (71 days), Yolo Wonder L (80 days), Capistrano (76 days), Hybelle (70 days - mountains only), Bell Captain (70 days), Camelot (74 days), King Arther (75 days), Murango (72 days) and Gatorbelle (71 days). The latter 6 are hybrids with superior yields.
  • Small Fruit - Banana Supreme (70 days), Hy-Fry (60 days), Biscayne (70 days), Key Largo (62 days) Cubanelle (65 days), Gypsy (60 days), Hungarian Sweet Wax (68 days).
  • Small Fruit (Hot) - Red Cherry (78 days), Red Cherry (Small) (75 days), Red Cherry (Large) (75 days - may be too large), Anaheim Chili TMR 23 (75 days), AnchoVilla (80 days), Early Jalopeno (63 days), Mitla (62 days - jalapeno), Hungarian Yellow Wax (68 days), Habanero (100 days - very hot).
  • Pimento - Pimento Select (73 days), True Heart Perfection (80 days).

Seeding

Obtain certified seed produced under disease conditions of the arid, western part of the United States.

Commercial Growers - Soak seed in 1.05% sodium hypochloride (1:4 bleach solution) for 40 minutes under constant agitation, or use an aquarium aeration stone. One gallon of this solution treats one pound of pepper seed. Then, rinse seed with vinegar, and then water. This will reduce bacterial spot disease. All seed should be treated with a chemical dust (Arasan or Thiram 50) before planting. If plants are purchased, be sure they have been certified. Several serious diseases can be brought in on seed or plants. Serious insect pests can also be introduced on transplants.

When to transplant

Table 1. When to transplant peppers.

Region

Sow Seedbed

Transplant in Field (after Frost)

Coastal Plain

Jan. 15 to Feb. 15

April

Piedmont

Feb. 1 to Mar. 1

April to May

Mountains

Feb. 15 to Mar. 15

May

(See AG-337, Production of Commercial Vegetable Transplants, for more detailed information.)

Soil

Locate the plant beds in a convenient place. Use a rich, well-drained soil that does not cake, pack or crust easily. Sterilize soil with fumigant. Follow details of soil fumigation carefully according to the label. (See Plant Pathology Information Notes 69 and 170).

Fertilizing

Use 14 lb of plant bed fertilizer (such as 12-6-6) per square yard. Also use 14 oz of seed per square yard of plant bed. Sow seeds 12 inch deep, in rows 4 to 5 inches apart, with 8 to 12 seeds per feet of row.

Planting

Overcrowding is one of the biggest problems with the development of stocky plants. Sow seed 8 to 10 weeks before plants are to be set in the field. Water the bed thoroughly and uniformly after seeding. Approximately 1500 to 2000 plants can be produced from each oz of seed planted properly.

Disease Management

If "damping-off" appears, drench plant bed with a fungicide* (according to manufacturer's directions). Spray or dust with fungicide if blue mold appears in plant bed. Damping-off and mold should not be problems if the bed was fumigated, is well-drained, and well-ventilated.

Water plant beds thoroughly when needed. Watering in the mornings will allow foliage to dry more rapidly and thus reduce the spread of diseases.

Prior to pulling, spray the plant bed with an antibiotic* and fungicide* as directed on the label. If bacterial spot appears, avoid using plants from the bed, but if they must be used, spray weekly with a mixture of copper and streptomycin sulfate.

To control mosaic virus, avoid using tobacco before handling plants or wash hands with soap and water before handling plants. Control insects in plant bed and field to prevent mosaic virus spread. (See Plant Pathology Information Note 186.)

In the Field and Garden

  • About 7 to 10 days before transplanting, begin hardening the plants by limiting water and exposing them to wind and sun. Water the plant bed thoroughly a few hours before the plants are to be pulled.

  • Select a well-drained, easily worked loamy or sandy loam soil. Do not select a soil that had cotton, tobacco, eggplant, peppers or Irish potatoes the previous year. Practice crop rotation to control rootknot, bacterial spot, and other diseases. Soil samples should be taken in the fall to determine fertilizer needs and if fumigation for nematodes is necessary. Take a small amount of soil to a depth of 8 inches, from 8 to 10 locations in the field or garden and mix this soil thoroughly. Then put a cup of this soil in a plastic bag for nematode analysis and another cup in a fertility sample box for determination of fertilizer and lime needs. Soil pH for pepper should be 6.0 to 6.5, lime will allow your peppers to use fertilizer more readily.

  • Be sure that the land is plowed early and deep to ensure that trash and other organic matter are well rotted. Plowing under green manure cover crops early will result in increased yields.

  • Use a row width convenient for cultivation (3.0 to 3.5 feet). Transplant plants 12 inches in the row (about 12,500 plants per acre). Cultivation may not be necessary with a good herbicide program. Recently, use of black plastic and 2 rows (12 inches apart) on beds with 5-ft centers has doubled yields. (Drip irrigation is necessary for plastic mulch.)

  • Pimento peppers require spacings of 18 to 24 inches in rows spaced 42 inches apart, because of their greater vigor.

  • Apply recommended chemicals for weed control.* Follow the directions on the label. For best results use both planting (pre-planting for the garden) and post-planting herbicides.

  • Apply the recommended fertilizer in 2 bands, each located 3 inches to the side and 2 to 3 inches below the plant roots. On average soils, 400 lb of 10-20-20 per acre (3 lb of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet for gardens) should be used (if soil was not tested). Where banding is impossible, mix the fertilizer thoroughly with the soil before ridging, because peppers are very susceptible to fertilizer injury. Apply 20 lb of actual nitrogen (12 oz. of actual nitrogen per foot of garden row) as a sidedress. Sidedress 2 to 3 times, starting 2 weeks after planting. Pimentos will require a third sidedressing.

  • Transplant in late afternoon or on cloudy days to prevent wilting. If soil is low in phosphorus, use a soluble starter fertilizer in transplant water.

  • Cultivate only when necessary to control weeds, usually every 10 days. The cultivations should be shallow. Don't permit machinery to touch the plants, because this will injure the plant and spread diseases. If herbicides were used, cultivate only if necessary.

  • If bacterial spot appears in the field, spray with a copper fungicide every 7 days as indicated on the label. Complete coverage of the leaves is necessary. Sprayer should have at least 3 drop nozzles per row and 200 lb of pressure. Airblast sprayers can also be used. (See Plant Pathology Information Note 162.)

  • Foliar applications of insecticides* may be necessary on a weekly basis after mid-June. Corn earworms, maggots, armyworms, and corn borers, are especially troublesome later in the season. In the field, use black-light insect traps or sex pheromone traps to monitor insect populations. Scout fields regularly for insects and their damage and use management tactics.

  • If bacterial spot appears in the field, spray with a copper fungicide every 7 days as indicated on the label. Complete coverage of the leaves is necessary. Sprayer should have at least 3 drop nozzles per row and 200 lb of pressure. Airblast sprayers can also be used. (See Plant Pathology Information Note 162.)

  • If Cercospora leaf spot appears in the field, spray or dust with a fungicide.

  • Harvested peppers should be kept cool to retard spoilage. The peppers should be removed from the field soon after harvest. You should consider refrigeration prior to loading on transfer trucks. Forced-air cooling has reduced in-transit losses by cooling peppers rapidly and reducing bacterial action.

Ten Steps to Profitable Pepper Production

  1. Use well-drained soils.

  2. Soil test for fertilizer and nematodes.

  3. Lime to pH 6.5.

  4. Apply fertilizer carefully.

  5. Use only disease-free and insect-free plants that have not been crowded.

  6. Use good weed management practices.

  7. Plant carefully to get good stands.

  8. Sidedress 2 to 3 times.

  9. Control corn borer and other insects.

  10. Cool fruit soon after harvest.

* Consult the current North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual or your county Extension agent for pesticide recommendations.

Pepper Types

  1. Serrano (See image)
  2. Cubanelle (frying type) (See image)
  3. Cayenne (See image)
  4. Pimento (See image)
  5. Anaheim Chile (See image)
  6. Cherry (See image)
  7. Jalapeño (See image)
  8. Elongate Bell (See image)
  9. Ancho (See image)
  10. Banana (See image)
  11. Blocky Bell (See image)

Serrano

1. Serrano

Cubanelle (frying type

2. Cubanelle (frying type

Cayenne

3. Cayenne

Pimento

4. Pimento

Anaheim Chile

5. Anaheim Chile

Cherry

6. Cherry

Jalapeño

7. Jalapeño

Elongate Bell

8. Elongate Bell

Banana

10. Banana

Ancho

9. Ancho

Blocky Bell

11. Blocky Bell

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Last modified: Dec. 16, 2014, 2:01 p.m.