Vegetable scientists who work to satisfy the world’s growing hunger for peppers will meet in here Nov. 7–9 for the Texas Pepper Conference.

The event, hosted by the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Weslaco, brings together researchers who will present their findings in presentations and poster displays.

“The popularity of peppers continues to grow not just because of the flavorful zing they add to meals, but because of the healthful punch peppers provide,” said Dr. Kevin Crosby, a pepper breeder at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Weslaco.

Calling them the superstars of vegetables, Crosby said peppers are bursting with essential vitamins and naturally occurring compounds that help prevent a host of human ailments, including cancer and heart disease.

“The scientific studies of peppers have shifted from the exclusive use of traditional breeding methods for developing improved varieties to an era where we now use molecular genetics as well,” he said.

“The idea is to isolate beneficial genes to develop varieties resistant to plant diseases not easily controlled by pesticides, that yield better over a longer harvest season and that produce fruit with increased healthful compounds.”

Among the conference speakers will be Dr. Ben Villalon, a retired pepper breeder credited with creating the first mild jalapeño pepper and who organized the first Texas Pepper Conference in 1977.

“The Texas Pepper Conference has always been about scientific research,” Villalon said. “So we’ll have research and Extension people at this conference, plus processors, people from the seed and agrichemical industry, chili aficionados and hobbyists.”

Villalon said the firs t pepper conference, also held in Weslaco, drew about 200 participants. Conferences were held every other year throughout the state drawing several hundred attendees. The last conference was held in 1995 shortly before Villalon retired.

Topics to be discussed at the 2007 conference include current breeding efforts, plant disease control, new varieties, pepper transplants, mechanical harvesting, pest management and the economic outlook for U.S. pepper production. A field day exhibit will allow participants to observe more than 100 types of peppers.

e-mail: r-santaana@tamu.edu