Successful hot pepper production can be considered to fall into eight important stages and, unless attention is given to each stage, it will be difficult to obtain the required fruit yield, quality or financial income. The eight critical stages or steps are:
Step one. Start with good quality seed, this is a basic principle.
Step two. Good quality soil is required in order to obtain the best possible seedlings.
Step three. Ensure that the seedlings are produced in a proper nursery area which is insect proof.
Step four. Transplant the seedlings at the proper stage and in the correct manner.
Step five. Select a suitable site for the pepper plot and prepare the soil in the correct manner in advance of planting out.
Step six. Correct plant nutrition is critical. In addition, a drip system is considered the best method of irrigation.
Step seven. Peppers are subject to a number of insect pests and diseases, therefore adequate pest and disease control methods are very important. However, these should not be over reliant on chemical controls if the crop is to be of an acceptable standard. Special attention must be given as to which chemical materials are allowed to have been used for individual market outlets.
Step eight. Adequate care of the fruit must be taken during harvesting and immediate post-harvest. Overall post-harvest management will ensure that fruits are in the best possible condition when they reach the markets.
It is important to have a suitable nursery in order to produce strong and healthy plants. If this is not possible the grower should buy in suitable young plants from a reputable plant raiser. Growers who intend to raise their own plants will have to build a proper nursery. It must be remembered that the best chance of overall success in crop production, especially for export, will depend on the seed material at the start and the conditions under which the resulting plants are raised.
The location of the nursery is very crucial. It should not be where other related crops, such as pepper, tomato, eggplant or Irish potato (white potato) have been grown in the previous two or three years. The site should also be at least 200 yards (approximately 200 metres) from any other pepper or tomato field. The whole idea of this isolation in both time and distance is to avoid the transmission of insectborne and soil-borne diseases (including viruses) from related crops. Peppers are members of the Irish potato family (Solanaceae) and there are also some important weeds in this family. Any of these members of the potato family can act as a reservoir for insect transmitted diseases and/or soilborne pests and diseases.
Wind direction is another factor to take into consideration. Insects can be carried by wind and it is therefore important to take the direction of the prevailing wind into account so that any aphids or other winged pests are downwind from the nursery site.
A properly sited and correctly built nursery is an investment which should increase the farmer's income over the years. It is therefore highly recommended that this important step is taken.
Some nursery operators specialize in the business of producing seedlings for sale and distribution to other growers. In some other cases farmers form groups so as to share the nursery construction costs.
The following check list is given as a guide only, the exact dimensions and amounts will depend on the planned size and available materials:
Three inch (7.5 cm) galvanised pipes or half to one inch (1.25 to 2.5 cm) PVC for the main posts to hold the screen-house.
Timber (lumber) for the sides, 2 x 4 inch (4 x 10 cm) and 4 x 4 inch (10 x10 cm) approximately 7 yards by 4 yards (approximately 6.3 m x 3.6 m).
Approximately 4 tonnes of river gravel to make concrete for supporting the posts and providing a suitable substrate for the seedling containers.
Concrete blocks and cement for the foundation.
Aroll of insect-proof mesh, 6 foot wide and approximately 50 foot long (approximately 2 m x 17 m). NB. At the time of writing a special mesh wire was available from the project.
PVC film for the roofing material.
Constructing the nursery is usually estimated to take about three days. Once the exact position and plan size of the plant raising structure are decided the plan dimensions are marked out on the site. If any major clearing and/or leveling are required it is best done at this stage.
Ideally the upright posts are then put up. The stone gravel is spread evenly to form the floor. This material will suppress any weeds, assist surface drainage and help the seedling containers to drain properly.
When the upright posts have settled in i.e. allowing concrete to set), the mesh sides and roofing frame are constructed. The mesh is stapled on the sides and gable ends. The PVC film is nailed to the roof. Care must be taken when fixing both the insect-proof mesh and the PVC that they are not damaged or torn, thin pliable 'washers' should be positioned under the heads of fixing nails and staples to protect the material underneath from damage and to avoid tearing. Amesh entrance doorway is fixed at one gable end (see Figure 1A). This should be formed as a double entrance frame, ideally at the end of the structure which is less likely to have insects blown in. The actual width of the entrance should take into account the width of trolleys and barrows.