Pepper 'family tree' could aid breeding

02/14/2013 02:28:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

hot peppersVicky 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.

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Gainesville, Florida  |  February, 21, 2013 at 01:15 PM

Can you now map the 40 pepper lines and make a geographical map with approximate dates (or centuries) in which they were moved? For example, when did the peppers reach north China, India, Thailand, Africa, and where did they mostly come from? From Mexico via the Spanish to Europe and the silk route? Etc. That would be VERY interesting, now that the authors have proven (again) they all come from the same original line.

Gainesville, Florida  |  February, 21, 2013 at 01:16 PM

Remember the name of the very hot peppers is Habaneros, not Habañeros.

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