How to breed peppers

posted in: Food, Science | 22

Did you hear the news this week about the new hottest pepper in the world* – the Infinity pepper? Want to try your hand at breeding something better? Well just in time, I have the next video in my pollination methods series of videos available for you to watch: Yes, peppers. The pepper genus, Capsicum is complex and although there may be different species, you can still make crosses between them if you know which crosses to make. The video explains it all. Enjoy!

*Shortly after I recorded audio for this video, it was announced that the Naga Jolokia (or Naga Morich) pepper which I had described as the hottest pepper in the world at 1 million Scoville units, was apparently unseated by another pepper called the Naga Viper. At 1.36 million Scoville units, here is the spicy fruit:

I had to do a little re-working of the video to make sure it could never get dated as backyard breeders continue to breed crazier and crazier peppers. The fresh news about the Infinity Pepper has me a little puzzled, because it is supposed to be 1.18 million Scoville units, which is not as hot as the Viper. The Viper apparently may need to go through a little more testing to have its level of heat confirmed, but then again, how much confirmation as the Infinity had?

I also found the Wikipedia explanation of the tentativeness of the Viper’s status confusing. It says that being an ‘unstable’ hybrid puts the result in question. If you can regenerate a three-parent or two-parent hybrid consistently so that it is a recognizable variety, its hybrid status should not matter when it comes to determining if it has a consistently high level of spice.

Breeding true should not be necessary in my humble opinion as a plant geneticist, because if you watch my video, you will know that you can generate hybrid pepper seeds on a large enough scale for that not to matter!

Follow Karl Haro von Mogel:
Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He recently moved back to his home state of California. His favorite produce might just be squash.