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Friday, March 2, 2012

NY 2011 High Tunnel Pepper Variety Trial Results

From Cornell Unversity Cooperative Extension Regional Vegetable Programs' March 2012 VegEdge newsletter Vol. 8(3):  14. 

by Judson Reid, Kathryn Klotzbach and Nelson Hoover, Cornell Vegetable Program.

Alliance, Gordo, Sandpiper, Yellow Crest, and Vanguard (left to right).
Photo: Judson Reid, CCE Cornell Vegetable Program
Introduction - If you read last month’s VegEdge newsletter you know that tomatoes can give excellent yields in high tunnels. However peppers offer a viable option to tomatoes as they require less labor, and suffer from fewer insect pests and diseases. In 2011 the Cornell Vegetable Program completed its third year of high tunnel pepper trials.

-submitted by Rick VanVranken

Materials and Methods - Pepper varieties Alliance, Gordo, Sandpiper, Yellow Crest and Vanguard were seeded in a heated greenhouse on March 1 and transplanted into a high tunnel on May 6. The high tunnel, fabricated on farm, is a 30 by 120 foot gal-vanized steel structure with a single layer of polyethylene. Plants were trellised with twine and stakes to prevent lodging. Peppers were harvested from June 25 to Octo-ber 25. The weight and number of marketable fruit was recorded at each harvest date and average yields calculated. A very thorough explanation of our trial methods is available online at:

Results - Yield as measured by pounds of fruit per plant were not significantly differ-ent among the five varieties. Sandpiper was the highest yielding as measured by pounds and number of fruit per plant, although in the same statistical grouping as the other varieties (Table 1). However there were significant statistical differences in number of fruit per plant. Yellow Crest was by far the highest yielder with 35.44 fruit per plant. Significant differences were detected in fruit weight, with Yellow Crest the lightest and Gordo the heaviest.

Table 1. Yield Data: Standard Fertility
Average Fruit Weight (lbs)* Average No. Fruit per Plant Ave. Yield per Plant(lbs)
Alliance 0.49b 15.88c 7.86
Gordo 0.56a 13.12c 7.26
Sandpiper 0.33c 26.29b 8.70
Yellow Crest 0.24d 35.44a 8.45
VanGard 0.52b 15.71c 8.10
LSD 0.0000 0.0000 NS
*Means with different letters (groupings) are signifi-cantly different with a p test value <0.05.

Discussion and Conclusions - The peppers evaluated in 2011 performed very similar in total yield per plant as measured by pounds. When we look at fruit size and weight we do find differences that can help growers make choices in variety. When selling by the piece, in a retail setting, varieties such as Yellow Crest would work well. For wholesale accounts varieties such as Gordo will fill bushel boxes faster. Sandpiper, a slightly smaller fruit than the other bell peppers in this trial, gave very good yields and offers a nice color spectrum (see photo - more on the CVP website).

High tunnels are a great tool for vegetable growers to increase quality and color of bell peppers. In a 30 x 96’ high tunnel (2880 sq ft), we can grow 480 peppers (5 sq ft/plant). Planted uniformly to our highest yielding variety, Yellow Crest, we can harvest 4056 lbs per tunnel. If the grower receives a wholesale price of $10.00 per ½ bushel box there will be a gross return of $ 0.99/sq ft (1.40 lbs/ sq ft X 0.71/lb).
 Conversely,using a retail price of $0.50 per fruit, again with the Yellow Crest variety, our economics improve to a sq ft gross of $2.95. Previous research by the CU high tunnel team has documented an input cost of $0.38/sq ft for peppers.

Although not a perfect rotational crop with tomatoes, peppers are not a host for the Fulvia Leaf Mold and less likely to harbor Two Spotted Spider Mites. We encourage growers to consider peppers in high tunnels for increased quality and yield.

The Cornell Vegetable Program and cooperating grower express gratitude to Harris Seed, Inc. for their collaboration in this project.