Growing bell peppers will soon be less frustrating for Georgia farmers, thanks to a disease-resistant variety developed by University of Georgia scientists.
The new variety, Dempsey, has been released exclusively to Rogers Seed Company of Boise, Idaho, by the Georgia Seed Development Commission. Growers should be able to buy the seed by 1998.
Dempsey is resistant to tobacco etch virus and many strains of bacterial leaf spot. Controlling these diseases forces farmers
to spend more to grow bell peppers. Georgia has about 6,000 acres of peppers each year.
"Tobacco etch virus stunts the plant and causes poor fruit set and small fruit size," said Ron Lane, the UGA scientist who developed Dempsey.
"Bacterial spot is even more devastating because it defoliates the plant," Lane said. "When occurring together, these diseases result in very detrimental effects on the plant and practically no yield."
Lane said the Southeast's high humidity and warm weather help these diseases thrive.
To create Dempsey, Lane used two bell peppers from the USDA's Plant Introduction System. He chose the two varieties based on their disease resistance.
Lane then crossed the USDA plants with Jupiter, an open- pollinated cultivar that grows large, four-lobed fruit.
In field tests, under a severe natural breakout of bacterial spot, Dempsey yielded nearly three times more peppers than Jupiter. It yielded five times more than Yolo Wonder, a widely grown hybrid.
Other field tests have shown Dempsey to stay free of all tobacco etch virus strains. Greenhouse and field tests have also shown it immune to pepper mottle virus and strains of potato virus Y.
Mature plants grow to about 25 inches high. The peppers mature about 60 days after transplanting.
Dempsey is named for the late A. Hugh Dempsey, a UGA pepper breeder who found the resistance sources used in the breeding program. Others who worked on the Dempsey breeding program were UGA bacteriologist States McCarter and UGA virologists Cedric Kuhn and Carl Deom.
(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)