Farmers have opted for varieties with resistance to powdery mildew and this year the ‘winners’ are expected to break onto the scene
The race to find materials with greater resistances in peppers has meant that the seed companies are working hard to give their very best in order to put varieties with the new ‘must’ on the market: top resistance to powdery mildew. If previously the basic package included L4 and spotted, now producers are also demanding resistance to powdery mildew (Lt). It is a disease that concerns and occupies the sector and this year it could be decisive: “producers are going to be very interested in the varieties that have behaved best with this resistance,” Luis Twose, Sales Manager at Bayer states.
In the case of Bayer, its great commitment is Arael, a variety of California pepper that brings production, calibre, colour and ease of handling that has become very popular in the sector. “There is a great deal of interest, we are being asked for the variety and we have very good expectations of growth. We have tripled the demand and the sales forecasts,” he affirms.
In this campaign, the pepper category has enjoyed good prices and this has meant that producers have extended their crops at the expense of other spring products such as melons or watermelons. Added to this factor is the cost of raw materials (composts, fertilisers…), which has shot up. “In melons and watermelons, the profits from 1 hectare are around €15,000, but as the inputs go up, this profit margin is reduced, therefore, just having 1.5 kg in peppers is worth leaving the crop in.”
No ceiling for peppers
Year after year, the surface area for peppers increases in Almeria and the price evolution continues to be good. “At the moment, we can’t see a ceiling for peppers,” Luis Twose advances. With the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the economic fabric has been shaken, stock shortages have occurred in some inputs, energy expenses have increased… and Holland and Morocco are also seeing the same problems. The costs are going up in general and all of this could result in pepper producers opting for having a single cycle in the next campaign, although this remains to be seen, depending on how the spring campaign develops. “In the end, the spring campaign is a lottery; we don’t know how to move because we are talking about seasonal products. However, peppers are eaten all year long and they are becoming more popular.”
What is clear is that the labour problems (rise in the minimum wage, lack of specialisation…), will favour Almeria’s family model, which “is going to last a lot longer than was previously thought. Our production model does not require important initial investments, such as in Holland. Here, greenhouses with high technology are not needed.”
The Lamuyo pepper segment is much more closely linked to fluctuations than the California type for two reasons: its focus on the Spanish home market (less volume) and high production costs, as it requires greater specialisation. After the drop in surface area for Lamuyo in the spring last year, and the subsequent increase in prices due to the reduction in volume, this year producers have opted for this pepper variety again.
Bayer leads the early segment with Baquero. This variety has been favoured with an important increase in demand, putting it at “the sowing levels of two years’ ago.”
Bayer will take an important step in the type with the introduction of a Lamuyo variety with resistance to powdery mildew, SV PH5782, which will be brought out in a pre-commercial phase in 2022/23. “We are going to carry out trials on 80 sites to make the variety known, and it will then be named. In this way, when a material moves onto the commercial phase, it will do so with a significant reliability.”
SV PH5782 has the same production as Baquero and it improves the shape quality of the fruit. It is aimed at transplanting in July and the first week of August, slightly later than Baquero because it is stronger.
‘Studied to be perfect’
Arael is the latest great commitment by Bayer in the California pepper category and, as its slogan indicates, it is ‘Studied to be perfect’. The variety, marketed with the Seminis brand, incorporates resistance to powdery mildew and it offers all the agronomical profitability characteristics that the market requires: production, high quality, colour, calibre, firmness, post-harvest… Arael’s plant has a good root system and an open architecture, which is an advantage for producers as it doesn’t require pruning. In hot weather, the fruit turns from green to red, passing through chocolate shades. Added to these characteristics are a high tolerance to over-ripening at the start of the crop and a very good post-harvest.
Regarding the fruit, Arael has a homogeneous G calibre throughout the cycle, with very high percentages of top-quality and an absence of micro-racking and peaks even at the end of the harvest. Another important advantage of Arael is its ease of handling. For all these reasons, “the fields and the entire marketing chain endorse the quality of Arael,” reassures Luis Twose, Sales Manager at Bayer.