Title : Breeding (Peppers) From A Farmer's Perspective
Growth of the green/ red chile industry in the United States has significantly increased in the last 40 years. Phil Villa, Evert Wood, and Dr. Ben Villalon, were working simultaneously, to improve yield, flavor, size, color, flavor, pungency, resistance to insects and diseases, and nutritional aspects of the pod in the late 1960’s. Curry Farm’s journey in practical breeding began some 40 years ago, in early 1970’s. By 1979 our journey of study and hard work on green chile at the farm level intensified. It took the passion of these mentors to another level. Their distinctly unique methods, to genetically improve Capsicum annum lead to the development of what most consider the largest germplasm bank of New Mexico type green chiles in the world. Dr. Ben Villalón, at Texas A&M working with 25 different types, developed a mild jalapeño, and a mechanical harvest system for all types. Evert Wood was working to improve paprika for the dehydration industry. All three men, working for the improvement of chile. Each one carried similar passions, work ethic and drive to improve the genetic base of their pepper of choice. Each used Gregor Mendel's basic methods, each of adding new ideas, and each contributing very distinct gene improvements to their specific types of Capsicum annuum. All three used very deliberate methods of practical crossing of chiles with distinct parental differences to recombine genetic packages from which improvements could be selected.
My mother and father, because of their love and dedication to chile, surrounded themselves with these men. Therein lies the beginning of my love for its improvement. I was 13 years old, following Evert Wood and Phil Villa in the fields, listening, learning and realizing the importance of selecting specific plants for growing out the following season to continue a very base method of improving a gene pool. Today, some 40 years later, because of these men, we continue to use practical breeding skills to furnish our industry with the best yields, flavor and improvements in green chile, paprika, cayenne, etc. Phil Villa’s chile cultivars Arizona 20 and Arizona 1904, became the standard of the green chile industry, several new types are being tested as this is penned. Today I work under the supervision of Wood, Villalon, Dr. Kevin Crosby, Texas A&M U, Dr. Stephanie Walker, NMSU., Dr. Rod Wing. U of AZ, A. Guzman, NMSU, and Dr. Steve Hansen, NMSU, and many others.