With the U.S. consumption of peppers at an all-time high, scientists and producers will meet in November in South Texas to explore ways to improve the industry, said Dr. Kevin Crosby, a pepper breeder with Texas AgriLife Research in College Station.

"The demand for peppers is always good and it is increasing, so it’s important to bring researchers and industry people together,” he said. “There’s always room to improve in areas such as pepper breeding, agronomics, technologies, pest control, crop management and improving the already high nutritional value of peppers.”

The Texas Pepper Conference and Field Day, organized by the Texas Pepper Foundation, will be held Nov. 12-13 at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, 2401 E. Highway 83.

The conference registration fee is $60.

Dr. Ben Villalon, professor emeritus and a retired pepper breeder at the Weslaco center, founded the pepper conference in 1976. Among other improved varieties, he also developed the world’s first mild jalapeno pepper in 1983.

Villalon said the conference kicks off with a welcome reception Nov. 12 at the nearby Best Western Motel.

"The Friday morning program, on Nov. 13, will include observation of field-plot trials of diverse, improved pepper genotypes,” he said. “After a Texas barbeque at the center at noon, we’ll have presentations of the latest research findings by scientists from throughout the country.”

Other recreational activities are being planned for South Padre Island, about 56 miles east of Weslaco.

Crosby, who has released a mild habanero and other agronomically improved pepper varieties, said the word is out that peppers are high in nutritional value.

“A health-conscious America knows that peppers are chock full of vitamins and other nutrients necessary for a healthy life,” he said. “The proof of that is in the increased consumption of processed peppers in salsas and of fresh peppers in everything from salads to main courses.”

The American “hot-food craze” has increased the U.S. consumption of peppers from an average of 12 pounds per person in 2001 to 13 pounds in 2007, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center at Iowa State University.

In the U.S., peppers are produced in Texas, California, Georgia, Florida and New Mexico. The leading producers abroad include India, China, Turkey and Mexico, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For more information or to register for the conference, contact Crosby at 979-845-7012 or e-mail k-crosby@tamu.edu. Or contact Villalon at 956-968-2549 or e-mail bevillalon@msn.com.