Vicky BoydSpicy peppers tend to have three times as much genetic diversity as sweet peppers, according to a study.University of California researchers have created a family tree of sorts for peppers, ranging from the ultra-hot habaneros to the sweet bell peppers.
The study involved sampling 30,000 genes of the Capsicum annum species, the most widely cultivated pepper species in the world, according to a news release.
In all, the researchers—led by Allen Van Deynze—examined 40 diverse C. annum lines.
The results highlighted the relationships between the different types of peppers and the wide diversity among the spicy peppers.
• For example, all cultivated pepper varieties share a common ancestor.
• Spicy or hot peppers showed three times more diversity than sweet peppers.
• Of all the spicy peppers, Anaheim and ancho chiles are the most closely related to sweet bell peppers.
• Peppers that look similar were by and large genetically similar.
The information can be used by pepper breeders worldwide to develop hardier, higher-yielding varieties.
For example, a small wild variety has strong drought and disease resistance. But it is difficult to grow and lacks consumer appeal.
Using traditional cross pollination to transfer the traits could take years.
By using marker-assisted breeding, which tracks DNA markers, researchers can speed the process.
The technique does not involve genetic modification.
Instead, it's more akin to a plant breeding highway, where researchers look for genetic street signs or other markers to determine if they're going the right direction.