National Pepper Conference History
by Ben Villalon

Origin and History of the National Pepper Conference

In August 1972, Dr. Ben Villalón, Plant Virologist-Breeder TAES, Weslaco visited Dr. Tom Zitter, Plant Pathologist, I.F.A.S., Belle Glade, Florida to discuss Capsicum spp. (pepper) virus diseases and breeding programs. Discussion led to the idea of organizing all pepper research scientists to exchange information and germplasm of mutual interest, Zitter consequently gave Villalon a partial list of federal and state pepper workers. Villalon compiled a list of 65 workers and mailed a questionnaire to ascertain potential interest in a pepper conference for spring or fall 1973. The positive response was tremendous and the list of cooperators grew to 120. The first National Pepper Conference (NPC) was held in McAllen and Weslaco, Texas, on April 25, 1973.

Among the 100 persons attending the first conference, twenty research scientists from California, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas presented their latest research findings. Of the speakers, 17 had doctorates and this group included plant pathologists, breeders, horticulturists, geneticists, physiologists, and virologists. Virus diseases and their control was the most intensively discussed subject as a variety of pathologists and breeders discussed their work. Other research areas covered during that first session included bacterial diseases, breeding, mechanization, processing, cultivars evaluation and physiology. All peppers types including bell, long green/red chile, high color paprika, ancho, pimiento cayenne, tabasco, jalapeno, yellow pickling, serrano, and cherry types received their share of attention.

 

Objectives of the National Pepper Conference 

During the conference, an organizational committee composed of: Dr. Paul Smith, Professor, University of California at Davis; Dr. Tom Zitter, Plant Pathologist, I.F.A.S., Belle Glade, Florida; Dr. Lowell Black, Plant Pathologist, L.S.U., Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Joe Freeland, McIlhenny Company, Avery Island, Louisiana; Phil Villa, Breeder, Heublein Inc., Oxnard, California; and Dr. Ben Villalon, Plant Pathologist-Breeder, TAES-Weslaco, Texas, was selected to help determine direction of future pepper conferences.

The committee made the following recommendations:

  • The pepper conference should be organized as the Pepper Improvement Committee (later changed to National Pepper Conference - NPC, making it easier for USDA and state scientists to attend).

  • The conference should be held once every two (2) years.

  • Conferences should be held in the major production areas such as California, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico, New Jersey, Georgia, Texas, etc.

  • Sub-committees, representing specific discipline areas, i.e. breeding, horticulture, processing, pathology, etc., should be organized and meet whenever necessary.

  • NPC would adopt, as a parent organization, the Pickle Packers International, Inc. (PPI). PPI would serve as a central clearing-house for maintaining a central bank of names of the committee membership. PPI would provide and exchange of information between meetings, and work with the appointed chairman for coordination.

  • The committee, with approval of all members, would select the next meeting site and appoint a local area coordinator as chairman.

  • There would be no officers or annual dues, totally non-profit.

 

Importance of the National Pepper Conference

Economically, peppers are no longer considered a minor crop and have merited attention by several federal and state experiment stations, as well as other public and private research and development agencies. NPC has served as an extremely useful tool in rapid dissemination of capsicum research information. Subsequently, other pepper-promoting groups have organized, such as:

  • California Pepper Improvement Foundation, 

  • California Pepper Commission, 

  • Texas Pepper Foundation, 

  • New Mexico Chile Improvement Foundation, 

  • New Mexico Chile Commission, 

  • International Connoisseurs of Green and Red Chile at Las Cruces, 

  • New Mexico and Florida Pepper Commission

The NPC membership consists of over 2,100 names and many maintain membership in one or more of the smaller groups.

 

National Pepper Conference's Scope

Virus diseases and breeding for virus resistance continue to be the primary concern of the capsicum industry.  The organization continues successfully without officers, structure, dues, etc.  Interest in capsicum improvement and diversity continues as the demand for better peppers increases annually.

NATIONAL PEPPER CONFERENCE HELD SINCE 1973

Date

Site

Coordinator

Attendance

May
1973

Weslaco,
TX

B. Villalon
Texas Agricultural Experiment Station

120

January
 1975

West Palm Beach, FL

T.A. Zitter
University of Florida, Belleglade

110

September
1976

Davis,
CA

P.G. Smith
University of California

110

September
1978

Baton Rouge,
LA

L.L. Black
Louisiana State University

105

September
1980

Las Cruces,
NM

R. Nakayama
New Mexico State University

200

June
1982

San Miguel de Allende, GTO, México

J.A. Laborde
INIA, CIAT, Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico

120

August
1984

Beltsville,
MD

R.E. Webb
USDA, ARS, Beltsville, MD

95

June
1986

Weslaco,
TX

B. Villalon
Texas Agricultural Experiment Station

160

June
1988

Raleigh,
NC

D. Sanders
North Carolina State University

110

July
1990

Wilmington,
DE

Ed Kee
University of Delaware

95

August
1992

Monterey,
CA

R.W. Scheuerman
University of California

200

August
1994

Las Cruces,
NM

P. Bosland
New Mexico State University

250

December
1996

Naples,
FL

D. Maynard
IFAS, University of Florida, Bradenton

300

October
1998

San Antonio,
TX

B. Villalon
Texas Agricultural Experiment Station

200

November
2000

Lafayette,
LA

C. Motsenbocker
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

200

November
2002

Tampico, TAM, México

J.M. Gochicoa
Tierra Fertil de las Huastecas

514

November
2004

Naples,
FL

Gene McAvoy
University of Florida-Hendry Co Extension

 

 

Return to International Pepper Conference Information