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adaptation surely exist. Collection of all species should continue and accessions be carefully preserved.

The Andean germplasm is a potentially vital source of resistance to diseases that afflict common peppers, such as fungal root diseases that sometimes kill a high proportion of the plants before they can be harvested. Also, it could be a significant resource for increasing the pungency and color of peppers. Both these qualities are of huge economic importance.

Other Developing Areas. Peppers are now perhaps the most widespread commercial vegetable in the tropics. Millions of the poor and destitute live on rice, beans, cassava, dahl, or another bland staple set off by a little dash of peppers. India's ubiquitous chutney and curry, for example, are unimaginable without the “heat” of peppers, whose origin is actually the Andes.

Peppers, therefore, constitute a potentially key intervention for the improved health of the Third World. Their nutritional content is relatively high, and they are good sources of vitamins, particularly vitamin C, and in the dried pungent types, vitamin A. Fortunately, these nutrients are not lost during the varied types of processing.

So far, selection has concentrated almost entirely on Capsicum annuum, but the other species deserve exploration. The screening and evaluation of the “lost” Andean species could provide useful characters to common peppers. Unfortunately, the species fall into a number of distinct genetic groups that do not hybridize freely with one another, thus limiting the usefulness of genes from other species.11

Industrialized Regions. The common pepper is increasingly popular in the United States and other nations that have had no tradition of eating spicy food. The related species of the Andes therefore are potentially valuable future resources, even in such countries. Rocoto, for instance, is thick fleshed like a bell pepper, but spicy like a chile. That combination could encourage specialty uses that might project this now unknown pepper into a place in the cuisines of the world. For use outside the tropics, however, varieties that are daylength neutral and adapted to cultivation outside the Andes will have to be located. Thanks to the foresight of biologists, a number of germplasm collections are in place. What now needs to be done is to identify and create superior types suitable for commercial production.


11C. annuum, C. frutescens, and C. chinense hybridize among themselves easily. C. baccatum hybridizes with each of them with some difficulty. Unfortunately, however, C. pubescens is genetically isolated and will not hybridize with any of the others. Information from W.H. Eshbaugh. Perhaps advances in biotechnology will change this picture.


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