Seminis bell pepper hybrid Turnpike.
Seminis bell pepper hybrid Turnpike.

Dozens of pepper growers recently gathered at the Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center (RAREC) in Bridgeton, N.J. to learn about the latest seed and fungicide products for controlling Phytophthora blight in peppers. Test plots of the new Seminis bell pepper hybrid Turnpike were among the many pepper varieties being evaluated at the Rutgers’ research farm.

“Phytophthora control trials, albeit, with fungicides and/or with host resistance/tolerance have been on-going since the 1970s at the research station,” said Andy Wyenandt, Extension Specialist in Vegetable Pathology, Plant Biology and Pathology Department at Rutgers University. “P. capsici [Phytophthora blight] is one of the most economically-important pathogens in the NJ vegetable production causing millions of dollars in losses each year.”

In addition, Wyenandt said Bacterial leaf spot has become the second biggest threat to pepper production behind P. capsiciin the last decade. “New races of Bacterial leaf spot have been found in New Jersey in the last 10 years. Prior to 2004, only Bacterial leaf spot races 1, 2, and 3 were present. Since 2004, BLS races 4, 5, 6 and most likely 10 have been found in the state.”

Given these evolving disease challenges that area growers have been facing, Seminis bell pepper breeder Bill McCarthy has worked for many years to develop new products with improved disease resistance in addition to the high quality and yield potential growers have come to expect from Seminis bell peppers.

One of those new bell pepper products is Turnpike. “We were excited to give growers an up close look at Turnpike, which was being trialed at the Rutgers research farm,” said McCarthy. “Turnpike is our latest X5R hybrid bell pepper that provides industry leading quality and yield potential with a strong agronomic package that protects against Bacterial leaf spot races 0-5, 7-9 and Phytophthora blight.”

In the past, bell pepper growers with Bacterial leaf spot issues have relied on cultivars with resistance to races 1, 2, and 3 but in recent years have started to adopt newer cultivars with resistance to races 1-5. “With race 6 now present, New Jersey bell pepper growers will need to grow cultivars with updated resistance packages,” explained Wyenandt. “The problem some growers have is that some of our most widely-planted Phytophthora resistant/tolerant bell pepper cultivars have no resistance at all to Bacteria leaf spot or only have resistance to races 1, 2, 3 and/or 5.”

McCarthy believes Turnpike is a promising new option for these growers. “Despite the fact that both Phytophthora blight and Bacterial leaf spot are issues for growers, Turnpike has performed well and looked strong in the test field,” explained McCarthy. “The growers were pleased to see a new pepper from Seminis that had the necessary disease resistance combined with the fruit quality they expect out of a bell pepper.”