The plant and the production of Peppers
The plant of peppers is a plant cultivated annually and reaches the highest production levels in spring and Summer: this plant is in fact susceptible to sudden cold weather and to strong winds.
The size of fruits, that is of peppers produced by the plant, varies according to the temperatures of the environment in which the plant of peppers is cultivated: however, temperature must not be lower than 12-18°C.
The plant of peppers has great climate needs, the seeding time can change according to the environmental temperatures: it is possible to sow in the first months of the year in more Southern countries that have more mild temperatures, while it is better to wait until Spring to sow peppers in more Northern areas, where temperatures may be more harsh. In some cases, the plant of peppers can be sown and grown in greenhouses or in pots during the most cold months and then moved in open fields in Summer.
Despite the fact that the pepper is a typically summer fruit and vegetable product, this vegetable is available on the international fruit and vegetable market and supermarkets throughout all the year because its cultivation in greenhouses is easy and widespread.
Peppers are largely imported from the Southern hemisphere also in Winter and Spring.
The plant of peppers prefers a loose (soft and loose soil, because this plant has roots with a scarce suction capacity), acid, rich in calcium and well drained soil; it needs large quantities of fertilizer and constant irrigation above all when peppers are growing, because a scarce quantity of water can stop the development of this fruit and vegetable product.
As well as a frequent irrigation, the plant of peppers needs also to be constantly cleaned, eliminating weeds, which tend to grow vigorous at the base of the plants of peppers, thanks to the soil fertility.
Peppers have an upright growth and a branched plant, similar to a shrub; the plant reaches up to 15-20 cm, but even varieties of cultivated peppers (as well as the ornamental varieties) can reach a height varying between 40 and 80 cm according to the species. The plant of peppers does not need necessarily stakes, however, as stems are fragile, it is better to stake the main stem to a short bamboo reed if it is cultivated in a quite windy area.
Leaves of the plant of peppers are ovoid and shiny, light green, while flowers are small and their colour ranges from white to green: they can have 5 to 7 petals per flower, while stamens are light yellow. Flowers of the plant of peppers can self-pollinate or can be pollinated by insects of different species: more flowers are produced and more peppers will be produced, even though the pepper quality is determined by the fleshiness of the fruit.
The fruits or berries of this plant, that is peppers, can grow upright or can hang according to the different varieties of peppers cultivated and are hollow and semi-gristly; the fruits are firstly green and become bright and shiny red or yellow when ripe. Inside the peppers, in the hollow of the vegetable, there are seeds usually concentrated at the base of the peduncle and attached to a whitish and spongy bearing; some varieties of peppers have filaments (placenta) on all the length of the pepper itself.
The different varieties of peppers differ for the fruit characteristics that can be of different shapes: they can be square-shaped, conical or elongated, of different colours ranging from the yellow to the red, green and brown. Also the different tastes are important: the fruits can be sweet or hot according to the varieties of peppers.
There are different adversities for the plant of peppers, some of which are: the sunstroke, due to a sudden exposition of the fruits to sun, which causes burns that form uncoloured areas on peppers that later can also rot; blossom-end rot, due to periods of drought alternate to periods of too much irrigation: the result is the blossom-end of the whole pepper that rots, spreading to the inner part of peppers; fungal diseases that cause the obstruction of the vascular vessels at the base of the plant with a following sudden withering of peppers; and finally, bacteria, that can cause the rot of leaves and fruits.
To avoid these adversities that can seriously damage the plant and the production of peppers it is recommended to use enlarged planting layouts that enhance a greater air circulation among plants of peppers and a right distribution of light, to use almost solely organic substances well composted, limiting the use of nitrogenous manures, not wetting leaves while irrigating the plant and harvesting peppers using scissors and not tearing the fruits from the plants, in order to avoid causing lacerations to the plant tissues.
Peppers are harvested at different ripening stages, according to how they are used, as fresh vegetables or in the industry; if assigned to the production of peppers in vinegar, peppers are harvested when unripe and green, while, if consumed fresh or used to be canned, peppers are harvested at the beginning of their ripening, when they begin to have a yellow or red colour. Finally, if they are going to be dried, peppers are harvested when completely ripe.
The production of peppers is largely widespread worldwide and it is valued that cultivations of this fruit and vegetable product are around or exceed about 1 million and a half hectares of cultivated areas all over the world.
Worldwide major producers of this fresh vegetable are Asia, America, Africa and Europe, while at a European level major producers are Spain, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.
In Italy the largest production of peppers takes place in the Southern regions that have more favourable climes for the growth of this vegetable, such as Sicily, Apulia, Calabria for a total annual production that is around 3,500,000 quintals on a surface of 185,000 hectares (data 2010).
Preventions done by producers of peppers, retailers of peppers, fruit and vegetable companies that produce organic peppers and by fruit and vegetable companies producing organic peppers consist in different techniques, among which there are an adequate rotation among the different fruit and vegetable cultivations (fresh vegetables are alternated) the avoidance of water stagnation and too thick peppers seeding, regular and constant irrigations of the soils assigned to the production of peppers and to the production of organic peppers, the elimination of residuals of infected fruit and vegetable products and finally nitrogenous manures or manures done with copper products (not for companies that produce organic peppers, for which treatments with chemical substances are forbidden by certification regulations of the European Union).