Growing Bell Peppers

Growing high Value Crop

By Carmela Abaygar



Pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) is grown widely under rainfed conditions. High yields are obtained in areas with a total rainfall of 6oo to 1250 mm, which is well distributed over the growing season. In Ilocos Norte alone, the total area planted to pepper in 1999 was 373.16 ha.

Growing bell peppers

Bell peppers can be ideal for planting in Philippine climate. Bell peppers love heat. This crop needs warm soil and air temperatures throughout the growing season. However in areas with cooler temperatures, plastic mulches, row covers and hoop houses may be used to grow this vegetable more quickly.

Bell peppers need high amounts of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Soil must be well drained. It is recommended to grow bell peppers in raised beds filled with good topsoil, compost, and rotted manure mixture. A pH near neutral (7.0) is ideal.

Bell peppers grow into small bushes and need good air circulation. Bell peppers must be spaced 12”-18” apart in rows at least 24”-36” apart to give each plant enough room.

Start bell peppers indoors 8 weeks before the end of the cool season. Using a 2” or slightly larger pot will produce larger bell pepper plants with better-developed root systems.

Sow bell pepper seeds shallowly, about 1/4” deep in a moistened lightweight growing mix. Keep the mix moist (but not wet) and warm – about 8o0850 during germination.

Keeping the mix warm may result in a quicker germination and healthier bell pepper plants. Germination will take 6-8 days. After the first true leaves have appeared, thin the bell pepper plants to one per pot. If the bell pepper seedlings are outgrowing their cell-tray or pots, pot them up to 2”-3” pots.

Do not use plastic covered seed starting trays to start bell pepper seeds. They create a very humid environment that is too stagnant. Do not use peat pots as they tend to absorb and retain too much moisture for growing some types of bell peppers.

Wait until the soil is 7o0850 before setting the bell pepper seedlings out. Use black plastic mulch to warm the soil. Place it on the beds when you start the seeds.

Bell peppers need consistent moisture during germination. Keep bell peppers evenly moist, don’t keep them soggy. Not enough water and the bell peppers will acquire a bitter taste. The use of mulches will help in keeping the soil moist. If you use black plastic mulch, plants will needs more frequent waterings. The use of a soaker hose underneath the black plastic will save time and make watering the bell pepper plants much easier.



Pest and disease control

Diseases that may causes losses in bell peppers include European corn borer, green peach aphid and cutworm.

European corn borer larvae should be monitored and treated just after they hatch. Control is not necessary until the second generation and then only when fruit are present. There is a 4-7 day window when the eggs, which are laid on the underside of the leaf, hatch and the larvae feed on the leaves. The caterpillars then bore a pin-sized hole at the edge of the fruit cap and enter inside the fruit to feed. When applying an insecticide be sure to cover the stem-end of the fruit.

Aphids secrete a honeydew upon which sooty mold grows, discoloring leaves and fruit and making the fruit unmarketable. Aphids also cause several virus diseases. Frequent use of insecticides such as pyrethroids which are not effective on aphids may cause outbreaks by destroying natural enemies.

Viruses transmitted by aphids, affect a wide range of cultivated crops and weeds. Symptoms Vary depending upon  the virus involved, age of the plants when infected, and upon environmental conditions. As no controls are available once the plants are infected, cultural controls must be used to avoid infection and spread. Insect control does not guarantee virus control. Bacterial spot (Xanthomonas vesicatoria) can be brought in on Infected seed or transplants. Leaf; stem and fruit spotting may be mild or severe and can destroy the crop given warm temperatures, abundant moisture and water splashing. It is imperative to avoid planting symptomatic transplants. Affected and adjoining plants should be removed from the greenhouse as soon as they are identified. Bacterial soft rot (Erwinia carotovora) is not often seen in the field but often appears after harvest. The bacterium enters the fruit through wounds and rapidly causes a soft, watery breakdown of fruit. Phytophthora blight may cause severe losses in peppers and vine crops. Root rot, stem canker, leaf blight and fruit rot may all indicate this disease. Prevention includes good drainage, rotation out of susceptible crops, and avoidance of inoculum from water sources and equipment.

Harvesting and storage Bell peppers are mature when they turn their final color. Most bell pepper crops are green when immature and can be harvested at that the. Mature bell peppers can be red, orange, yellow, green, or purple depending on the variety.

Harvest bell peppers as they mature by using garden shears to clip them off the plant – don’t pull them off. Continual harvesting of the bell peppers produces continuous fruit set so pick the bell peppers off your bushes regularly.

Wash and dry bell peppers thoroughly after harvest. Bell peppers will last up to three weeks if stored at 45°-55°, 90%-95% relative humidity. Bell peppers are very sensitive to ethylene gas so do not store them with fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas.



Return on investment

Cash overhead costs in growing bell peppers include land rent, property taxes, insurance, employee wages, and office expenses. Operation cash costs include equipment and its maintenance, labor, seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.

Bell peppers may be marketed fresh or processed. Profitability may differ on how portions of the crop are marketed.

Source: MARID, 2009

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