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This week in HORT 1101 – Picking peppers

From Frank Rossi, who introduces students to plants grown for foods, beverages, fiber, aesthetics and recreation in HORT 1101 (Horticultural Science and Systems).

Mike Mazourek, Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics, talks pepper breeding with HORT 1101 students.

Mike Mazourek, Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics, talks pepper breeding with HORT 1101 students.

This week in HORT 1101 (well, last week actually) we had a guest lecture from Mike Mazourek, assistant professor in the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics. In this week’s lab, the class assisted Mazourek in the field. He’s been charged with “cleaning-up” the USDA’s pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) collection by eliminating a seed-borne virus, removing diversity within each accession in the collection and properly classifying the plants in the collection if they are a different species.

We met at the East Ithaca Farm to discuss classical pepper breeding, reviewing Professor Mazourek’s Phytophtera resistance trial with bell peppers, and then breaking into groups to work on the collection. The students identified and rogued off-type and diseased plants and collected samples of ripe and unripe peppers for analysis of their spicy hotness via the Scoville heat scale and other compounds.

It was a great service-learning experience. The students got a glimpse of what plant breeding is really like while helping Cornell’s breeding program and contributing to the upkeep of the USDA pepper collection.

The lab ended with students doing some taste testing of a new line of purple peppers from Mazourek’s breeding program, indicating which peppers they found most pleasing to assist with selecting the next generation of breeding lines.

Students rogued off-type and diseased plants and collected fruit to test how spicy they are.

Students rogued off-type and diseased plants and collected fruit to test how spicy they are.

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