New Mexico scientists make genetic improvements to chile pepper germplasm
Chile pepper processing in New Mexico is a $500+ million industry. Chile wilt disease can destroy 100% of a field. This can have devastating economic and cultural effects throughout the state. Planting resistant varieties is arguably the best way to manage the disease. In the absence of genetic resistance in chile peppers, growers either risk losing their crops or rely heavily on chemical control of the disease. However, there are no effective chemicals to control chile wilt diseases and chemicals can have detrimental environmental consequences.
The buildup of chemicals in the soil and subsequent leaching from fields creates a large environmental risk. Since the chile pepper industry in New Mexico is a vital industry to sustain the economy and provides cultural value to the state, significant crop loss would have lasting negative effects statewide.
New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station researchers are using molecular markers linked to resistance to identify resistant individuals from early generations that can lead to an effective breeding procedure. Next-generation sequencing technologies, including high-throughput sequencing and sophisticated bioinformatics techniques, can identify candidate genes for resistance to chile pepper wilt disease. Researchers use the Plant Resistance Genes Database to identify possible resistance genes. The increase in efficiency can lead to a more effective breeding procedure and accelerate the release of disease-resistant varieties to growers.