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Pepper is one of the most important spices used in making most Nigerian food. There is hardly a complete meal without the use of at least one variety of pepper.
Pepper belongs to the Family Solanaceae, which is an important group of vegetables.
Pepper generally originates from Central America. Capsicum annum is from middle America (Mexico) while Capsicum frutescens is from the northern half of south America to part of central America and Caribbean area. Pepper played a significant early role in the development of food in America[i]
Pepper production statistics/Economic Potential
FAO statistics estimate world production of capsicum peppers in 2001 at 21.3 million tonnes(t) from a harvested area of 1.6 million hectares (ha) (average yield 13.4 t/ha); China is the largest producer with 10 million t, followed by Mexico (1.9 million t) and Turkey (1.5 million t). India is probably erroneously represented with only 50,000 t. Production in tropical Africa is estimated at 1 million t, with Nigeria (715,000 t from 90,000 ha) and Ghana (270,000 t from 75,000 ha) as the largest producers. Data are presented for only 13 out of the 47 countries of tropical Africa. (The statistics for Africa does not include home farms and garden production)[ii]
Rising domestic demand, coupled with a drop in exports, continues to set the trend for the pepper market. The main suppliers of the commodity to the global market are Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Brazil; while the major destinations of its export are the US, Europe, Japan and Australia[iii].
The price of pepper in Nigeria has been subjected to seasonal fluctuation over time. In South Western Nigeria, pepper has been massively conveyed from Northern Nigeria despite the fact that it is also grown in the South West. This indicates that there is a great and urgent need for increased production of pepper in Nigeria and most especially in the South-Western Nigeria.
The domestic demand for pepper has increased over time which has resulted in the decline in the quantity of pepper being exported in several producing countries. This signifies that there is need for increase in the supply of pepper to make up for the increase in the domestic demand and to also give room for exportation.
It is worthy of note that despite the production level of pepper in Nigeria, pepper is still being imported. General increase in pepper yield in Nigeria could be enhanced by the cultivation of improved cultivars, and intensification of cultural practices.
Benefits of Pepper
Pepper is used as a spice in many dishes.
Pepper is used as decoration in food, to add flavor and colour
It is also used to provide relief for several ailments. It can be found in topical creams that are intended to reduce muscle pain, inflammation and itching[iv].
Peppers can act as a heart stimulant which regulates blood flow and strengthens the arteries, possibly reducing heart attacks.
It has soothing effects on the digestive system, offers relief from symptoms of colds, sore throats and fevers, circulation, especially for cold hands and feet, and as a hangover remedy. Fresh peppers are an excellent source of calcium and vitamin C.
It can be used to regulate blood sugar
Hot chili peppers might help fight prostate cancer[v]
There are wide varieties of pepper all over the world but many of them are produced based on regions and environmental conditions.
Varieties commonly produced in Nigeria include:
1. Bird peppers—Atawere (Capsicum frutescens)
This is a very hot variety of pepper, it is short in length. Both ripe and unripe bird peppers are used for making pepper sauces. It is used while unripe, usually still green in colour for preparing pepper sauce for unpolished rice (locally known as ofada rice). The sauce is richly garnished with locust beans.
2. Cayenne pepper or red pepper—Sombo (Capsicum frutescens)
This is a very long and thin variety. It is a bit mild as regards to its hotness.
3. Atarodo (Capsicum annum)
This is the most common pepper variety in the market. The smaller sized ones taste more hot than the bigger sized ones.
4. Tatase (Capsicum annum)
This pepper variety is usually very mild in taste and very red in colour. It could be added to food or sauce as a colouring agent to bring out a bright red colour and sometimes to reduce hotness.
Pepper thrives well in warm climate. It requires well drained silt or clay loam and favourable climatic condition. Avoid planting on water logged and alkaline soils. Pepper grows well on highly nutritive soil with optimum soil moisture.
The soil used for raising nursery should be rich, well- drained and free of diseases and insect pest. Make seed beds with topsoil mixed with compost (30 x 45 x 8 cm) on nursery beds or trays. Leave an upper space of about 20cm for watering while using trays. Beds should be about 1meter long with an inter-row space of about 1m also.
Bed Fumigation/Heat treatment
Treat nursery soil mixture with fumigant to kill pests, fungi, weeds, etc. in the soil. VAPAM could be used at the rate of 1 liter to 20 liters of water per bed of 1 m x 10 m. Wet soil heavily to a depth of 15 cm and cover with palm fronds when used. Leave a space of about 9-10 days after fumigation before sowing seeds.
Heat treatment is an alternative to bed fumigation. It is done by burning trash on the bed and then removing the ash.
Water the beds about 14hours before sowing. Make drills of 5-10 cm apart across the bed and sow about 100 seeds per drill. Cover lightly. Thin the seedlings to 1 per 2.5cm of drill 15–20 days after sowing. Alternately holes can be made at 4 x 4 cm apart on the bed and 3–4 seeds dropped in each hole. The seedlings are later thinned to one per hole. Similarly seeds can also be drilled or planted in specific spacing (4 cm x 4 cm) in the tray
Protect seedlings from hot sun and heavy rains with the use of palm fronds. Remove half of the fronds 30 days after sowing and the rest 40 days later so as to harden the seedlings before transplanting.
Water the seedlings daily when the sun is not out preferably in the morning. Reduce quantity and frequency of watering during hardening of seedlings. Avoid excessive watering as it makes susceptible to diseases such as damping off.
Disease and insect control.
The seedlings should be sprayed regularly with insecticides like Ambush and fungicide diathane for control of insect and diseases before they are transplanted.
Beds could be of any length but preferably with a width of 1meter.The required land preparation includes ploughing, harrowing bed preparation should be done 7 days before transplanting.
Plant using 70cm inter-row spacing and 50cm intra row spacing. Water the seed tray and beds in the nursery, after which you could uproot the seedlings. Two rows may be arranged on a bed.
A complete fertilizer such as N.P.K. 15:15:15 can be carried out about 2 weeks after transplanting at the rate of one matchbox fertilizer to two plants. Draw a circle round the base of the plant and carefully spread the fertilizer in the groove. Cover lightly with soil. The circle should be reasonably far from the stem of the plant. A distance of about 4 –7cm is all right.
The second application should be performed at 50% flowering. The application rate this is one matchbox per plant. Water the plant immediately after applying the fertilizer. The most important pest of pepper is fruit fly
Scales and mealy bugs: found majorly on the stems of older plants.
Coratitis capitata: it feeds on the fruit flesh leaving only the transparent skin.
Borers (Lepidopterae spp.): found also in the fruits. Pests could be controlled by spraying insecticides namely sevin 85 w.p. 10 gm or 10 L of water weekly
Bacterial wilt: The infected plants show wilting and death of the growing point and upper leaves. It is mostly sever in pepper. It could be controlled through the use of Use disease resistant varieties and by the removal of the infected plant.
Fruit rot (Collectroticum capsic). It destroys fruit buy reducing its quality. Spraying insecticide to control pests
Virus: It is characterized by the reduction of size of young leave with leaf curl, mottling and vein clearing, puckering, deep mottling, curling inwards of leaves and stunted growth
It could be controlled by practicing the crop rotation
Pepper is usually harvested red or as it starts to turn red except for bird pepper which can also be harvested green because it may be consumed green for some special delicacies. Harvesting can be done once or twice in a week. It is usually harvested into baskets and sacks
Pepper produces a high return once it is properly cultivated, managed and free from pest and diseases attack. The production of pepper in Nigeria is profitable and economical.
Pepper fruit weight often declines from point of first harvest. Fruit yield of pepper is influenced more by the number of fruits and the fruit weight.
Pepper can be dried and stored in sacks
Dried pepper has a longer shelf life than fresh pepper.
Dried pepper can be further processed by grounding it into powdery form. This powdered pepper can be easily added to food, whether during or after cooking.
Fresh pepper can also be stored in the house in a cool dry place for about a week.
Abiotic constraints pertaining to the climate (drought, flooding, strong winds, extreme temperature and sunlight) and to the soil (moisture and nutrients content) may add up to biotic constraints and lead plants to stress and undergo anatomical and physiological disorders that reduce yield[vi] (Jackson, 1986).
Unfavourable climate may pose a major constraint to high yield.
[i] Source: http://www.unaab.edu.ng/ugprojects
[ii] Source: http://database.prota.org
[iii] Source: www.mydigitalfc.com
[v] Source: http://ushotstuff.com/medical.htm
[vi] Culled from: Jackson RD (1986). Remote sensing of biotic and abiotic plant stress. Ann. Rev. Phytopathol. 24:265