in the Cibao, greenhouse cultivation is used for crops
and their hybrid varieties
The pepper (Capsicum annum L) is a plant that belongs to the Solanaceae family of the Capsicum genus that possesses more than 30 species. It grows in the form of an annual small shrub with branched fibrous roots and can reach one meter in height. Its leaves are large, solitary and stalky with small actinomorphic flowers, normally with five white or yellow petals that bloom during mid- summer. Its fruit is a fleshy berry, hollow and of variable color (green, yellow, orange, red or lavender). They vary in size, and can weigh from a few grams up to 200 grams. The plant’s fruit have many names according to their form, color, taste, use or origin and are known as: green peppers, chilies, pimento or bell peppers.
Peppers or bell peppers are mainly composed of water, followed by carbohydrates, and therefore have a low caloric value. When consumed fresh the fruit of this plant is an excellent source of vitamins C, beta-carotene, vitamin E and folic acid, so it has ex- cellent antioxidant properties. It contains capsaicin, which is a bioactive substance responsible for the pepper’s hot taste, which stimulates circulation. It has been used since ancient times to season food, peppers enhance the flavor in sauces and salads. Currently, they are consumed fresh, fried, roasted, preserved and in sweets. The flesh of the fruit, dried and ground, is known as paprika or cayenne pepper.
The pepper or bell pepper is native to tropical America, especially the region between the south of the United States and Colombia. The plant was named pepper by the Spaniards, while American settlers called it “ahi”. It was the first species found by the Spanish in America and there is archeological evidence that traces its origins to 6,500 and 5,000 years B.C. The Mayans used it in the preparation of hot cocoa or for moles. Given the American Indian custom of using it as a complement for most of their meals, the Spanish began to use it to enhance sauces and stews. Magellan brought it to Africa and Asia. Although it is consumed worldwide, it is most popular in Central America and the southern part of North America, mainly in Mexico.
The pepper plant mainly grows in tropical and humid zones. The best soils for cultivating peppers are those of loose texture or slightly clayey (loam or clayey-loam), well leveled and with pH levels ranging between 5.5 and 7.0. Since it possesses a shallow root system it requires good soil humidity, avoiding excess water. It is a plant that demands light and optimal temperature ranging between 18 and 32 degrees Celsius. The fruit, however, must grow in the shade of the leaves because when exposed to sunlight may suffer burns. In case of drip irrigation, clayey soils are feasible for pepper cultivation, obtaining high yields and excellent quality.
The planting method used for this species is the transplant technique. Fruits ripen between 75 to 80 days after the transplant and its ripeness is reflected by changes in color depending on the variety, ranging from bright green to dark opaque green, or yellow orange. In most of the pepper production areas of the country, planting and production season are limited to the period of September to March. However, Dominican Republic has the climatic conditions to cultivate it year round.
The Capsicum is composed of approximately 20 to 30 species, of which five are cultivated: C.annuum, C.baccatum, C.chinense, C. frutescens y C. pubescens. The fruits of this plant vary enormously in color, form and size, not only between species but also within each species. Many denominations exist regarding the pepper: Chili Güero Pepper: Very hot pepper; Red peppers; and Green peppers. The diverse countries in Latin America use terms according to the variety.
They are grouped into two large groups according to their sweet and hot (spicy) flavor. Among the most popular sweet varieties there is the California type, from the United States, of short fruit, thick and soft skin. It has a dark green color that becomes bright red when ripe. Within this variety are: California Wonder, Maor, and Morrón. There is also the Lamuyo type of long, square-shaped fruit with thick skin. The Italian type has long, narrow fruit with bright green skin that turns red when ripe. The Long Chili, Goyen, Jalapeño, Hero and others are among popular hot pepper varieties.
Pepper planting and production in the Dominican Republic
Peppers produced in the Dominican Republic belong to the Capsicum annum and Capsicum frutescens species. The varieties of the annum species have the most commercial importance. The most widely produced types are: Cubanelle pepper, Morrón pepper and Hot pepper. The northwestern region shows the most dynamism where approximately 33% of total production is cultivated, followed by the northern region with 18%, and the central region, in third place.
In 2012, the Dominican Republic produced 783,937 quintals of peppers under conventional techniques and another 442,498 quintals produced in greenhouses, which makes the country one of the main producers in the region. According to the latest data available from the Ministry of Agriculture, since 2012, there are 2,672 hectares planted with peppers in the country. Dominican pepper exports have experienced a large increase since the year 2004, going from 98,580 quintals to 222,080 quintals in 2012, according to Central Bank figures. In 2012, the value of the exports was US$9.5 million. The leading markets for these products are United States, United Kingdom and Canada. The notable increase in pepper production and exportation since 2004, to a large degree, is due to greenhouse production of vegetables, taking place in the country since that year. During the last few years, the installation of greenhouse structures has increased considerably, going from 269 thousand square meters in 2004 to more than six million in 2011. Given the potential of greenhouse production, the Dominican government has arranged for the installation of an additional 7 million square meters of greenhouses in the next four years in order to boost and consolidate a new agricultural model based on risk reduction, high productivity and excellent profitability.
The investment that has been made in greenhouses since 2004 has caused great enthusiasm among producers given the new business conditions and perspectives, creating new jobs and services around vegetable production in the country. During the last few years, many packaging facilities for greenhouse products intended for export have been inaugurated in the country, primarily in the regions of Constanza, Jarabacoa, and La Vega, thus invigorating the national agricultural sector.