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