Wednesday, 29 July 2009 11:06
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Special measures are being taken at the Gladstone Road Agricultural Centre (GRAC) to preserve the potent purity of the native Bahamian goat pepper, the fifth hottest in the world.
“Goat peppers are specifically Bahamian,” Basil Miller, Senior Agriculture Officer at GRAC asserted “They are native to Andros.”
Being prolific reproducers, Bahamian goat peppers need plenty space and they must be isolated to maintain their genetic purity. “We have to keep them more than 600 feet away from any other pepper to avoid inbreeding,” he explained.
And the Bahamian goat pepper is in such demand, GRAC cannot produce sufficient seeds which are distributed through the Ministry of Agriculture’s Fish and Farm store, Potter’s Cay Dock. “The potential is great for business,” said Mr Miller, “however farmers will have to unite. What we have found is that you can grow peppers all year round. There is no season for peppers.”
He noted that as an incentive Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation making land available to persons interested in farming.
Other varieties grown at GRAC include finger pepper, native to Eleuthera, and Tabasco pepper, native to New Mexico, which grows well in The Bahamas.
Harvested peppers go through a wet extraction process. The flesh is separated and the seeds are deposited in a bin. They are then dried in the sun and baked for a day. About 100 sample seeds are isolated and tested for 11 days to determine their rate of germination. Native goat peppers germinate 95 percent of the times, 10 per cent better than the international standard, Mr Miller explained.
He underscored the importance of a national seed bank. During passage of Hurricane Andrew over Eleuthera in 1992, the finger pepper was almost lost as a genetic variety.
“We were saved because a lady had some seeds in her kitchen cupboard that weren’t destroyed by the salt water,” said Mr Miller “Once we establish a germ bank, we will always have the seeds. If we ever experience a major hurricane, we will have seeds so when the coast is clear we can plant our seeds again.”
Farmers who grow more that one crop at a time, without isolating them, harvest cross-bred crops, substandard to genetically pure crops, Mr Miller warned. “They should concentrate on growing one crop at a time. Some farmers try to grow too many things in the same field and open their crops to diseases. Crops must be grown with other crops from different families.”
Photo 1: Quality pepper seeds are produced at the Gladstone Road Agricultural Centre. (BIS photo/Gena Gibbs)
Photo 2: Basil Miller, Senior Agriculture Officer at GRAC, shows off a variety of pepper grown there. (BIS photo/Gena Gibbs)