State University's Chile Pepper Institute to host
New Mexico will hold world's largest meeting on chili peppers
New Mexico State University is preparing to host the world's largest conference dedicated to chili peppers.
The 2020 New Mexico Chile Conference will run on February 3 and 4 at the Las Cruces Convention Center. The university's Chile Pepper Institute has been organizing the annual conference for about three decades.
Chili has long been one of New Mexico's signature crops. It's the state vegetable and the basis for the official state question: "Red or green?"
The conference draws experts in breeding, processing, pest management and sustainable ways to give growers a competitive advantage. There also will be discussions about the state's chili certification program and how to add value to the harvest.
Startribune.com reported that organizers also are inviting students to present their pepper-related research during the two-day gathering.
Evergreen Europe introduces chili peppers with instructions for use
"Almost one hundred chili pepper varieties will be in production in the summer months, even a variety with a hot name indeed: the Viagra of Chile," explained Marco Pacifico a few days before Fruit Logistica in Berlin, where Evergreen Europe will present a new promising project. India has entered the chili season and the expectations are sky-high, according to MK Exports’ general manager Manoj Barai. “Our chili season has just started and thanks to a terrific rainy season we should have more than enough produce available, while still being able to sell the chili for a good price. It’s all looking much more positive than it did last year, we’re shaping up for a great season. I expect we’ll export between 250 and 300 metric tons within the next six months.”
Chili processing packing chili powder manufacturing quality control inventory
No matter how great the season, cultivating the chili in India is not without its challenges. Balancing the pesticides to fit the European regulations is one of the challenges that comes back year after year, says Barai. “Right now the main challenge is dealing with pests and diseases while at the same time making sure we don’t exceed the maximum allowed use of pesticides as well. It means constantly checking and ensuring we adhere to the MRL check of pesticides, so we stay in line with the European requirements, as well as the requirements of other countries.” "The products will be commercialized in eco-friendly packaging solutions made of recyclable cardboard and Clarifoil® cellulose film. The packaging can be disposed of in the paper basket and weighs between 60 and 100 grams." "The products will be diversified into three categories to help consumers: mild, medium and hot. On one side, the packaging will include ideas and recipes while, on the other , it will report the recommended dosage for those trying fresh chili peppers for the first time."
Cambodia’s Agriculture Ministry reported that the nation exported more than 30,000 tonnes of fresh chilis during the past five months of the year to Thailand. It said the commodity export the market has seen a remarkable increase year-on-year since the last five year. The chili was priced at 6,400 riel ($1.55) per kilogramme in Phnom Penh as of Friday.
Cambodia exported roughly 1,000 tonnes of fresh chili to Thailand in 2015 and the figure rose rapidly to 55,513 tonnes last year.
Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon said the industry has been bearing fruit for the last few years after the government introduced an open-ended policy for the private sector to invest in agriculture through providing economic land concessions, while Cambodia has been undergoing a series of fruit exports to several countries, especially China in recent years.
he great thing about bell peppers is that they are available year round! Although we see bell peppers being sold in the grocery store from other countries, bell peppers are actually grown year round in the United States, with California being the highest producing state.
Bell Pepper Harvest
Bell peppers are hand harvested and transported to a packinghouse in order to be sorted and packed. In this particular case, the bell peppers were grown in the Delta region of California and transported to the packinghouse in Gilroy, California. That is just a reminder that you never know where those trucks full of produce are headed when you spot them on the freeway!
Bell Pepper Packing
The following video demonstrates the bell pepper packing operation. Note that unlike what you commonly see with other crops, there is no wash step.
The bell pepper packing process is as follows:
Box Formation – Boxes are formed in house. There is a machine that is designated for box making. Once the boxes are formed, they are transported to the packing area.
Product Arrival – The product arrives to the packinghouse via bins from the field. They are brought into the facility with a forklift that places them in line for the bin dump.
Bin Dumping – The bins are dry dumped onto the machinery and are transported on a conveyor belt.
Brush Step – The initial conveyor belt consists of brushes that scrub the exterior portion of the bell peppers.
Sorting – There are two sorting areas. The first is where the culls are sorted out. While, the second determines which market the bell peppers will go to (e.g., primary or secondary), and removes any additional culls.
Packing – Bell peppers are either hand packed for the primary market, or machine packed for the secondary market.
Palletizing – The bell peppers that are packed by hand for the primary market are palletized in the packinghouse and taken to cold storage. While those that are machine packed are sent outside on a conveyor belt, where they are palletized and taken to cold storage.
Cooling – The packed bell peppers are stored in the cooler until they are shipped, where they are force-air cooled.
By definition, 'processing' does not involve harvesting. However, one cannot produce a good product from badly harvested materials. Correct harvesting techniques could be said to be the most important factor in the production of a high quality final product. The main problem is immature harvesting.
The main reasons for immature harvesting is the fear of theft. If the crop is picked correctly when it is mature the higher yields and higher value of the final product may offset the losses due to theft.
Through extension officers, correct harvesting should be encouraged.
However sometimes immature pepper receives a higher price than mature pepper due to purchase by food processors due to its higher percentage of flavour components.
The pepper spike should be picked when one or more of the berries start going yellow/orange. The berries should be hard to the touch.
In most countries the harvested pepper berries are removed from the spikes before drying. This can be done by hand, beating with sticks or trampling on the pepper spikes.
A clean product is essential. The major problem for the export of pepper by small-scale farmers is the production of a sufficiently clean product.
The first step is to remove dust, dirt and stones using a winnowing basket, see Figure 1. This can be done in the same way as for rice. Someone used to this work can remove the dirt, dust and stone quickly and efficiently (they can clean over 100kg of pepper in an eight-hour day).
Figure 1: A cabinet dryer
There are machines that can be bought or made that can remove the dust, dirt and stones. However, for a small-scale unit, winnowing the crop by hand is the most appropriate system.
After winnowing the crop needs to be washed in water, for quantities of up to 50kg a day, all that is needed is two or three 15 litre plastic buckets. The crop should be washed by hand and drained two or three times. For larger quantities a 1m³ sink/basin with a plug hole needs to be constructed. This can be made out of concrete. However, the water must be changed regularly to prevent recontamination by dirty water. Only potable water should be used.
The pepper berries can be blanched before drying by dipping them in boiling water for ten minutes. This accelerates the drying and browning of the berries. However, the fuel costs may be prohibitive.
This is by far the most important section in the process. The inability to adequately dry the produce will, at the very least, slow down the whole process and possibly lead to mould growth. Any pepper with even a trace of mould cannot be used for processing. The sale value of mouldy pepper can be less than 50% the normal value. In extreme cases, the whole crop can be lost. To get the full black colour of dried pepper it needs to be dried in direct sunshine. This can be achieved by sun drying, solar drying or in a combined solar and wood burning drier.
Figure 2: 'Exell Solar Dryer'
During the dry season, sun drying is usually adequate to dry the produce. The simplest and cheapest method is to lay the produce on mats in the sun. However, there are problems associated with this method. Dust and dirt are blown onto the crop and unexpected rain storms can re-wet the crop.
A solar dryer avoids these problems. The simplest type is the cabinet solar dryer, see Figure 1, which can be constructed out of locally available materials (eg bamboo, coir fibre or nylon weave).
For larger units (over 30kg/day) an 'Exell Solar Dryer' could be used, see Figure 2. However, the construction costs are greater and a full financial evaluation should therefore be made to ensure that a higher income from better quality spices can justify the additional expense.
During the wet season or times of high humidity, which often coincides with the harvest of the spices, a solar dryer or sun drying can not be used effectively.
An artificial dryer, which uses a cheap energy source is necessary. This may be a wood or husk burning dryer or a combined wood burning and solar dryer. Figures 3-6 show a combined wood burning and solar drier which is based on the McDowell Dryer and has been used in Sri Lanka.
Pepper is one of the oldest and most popular spices in the world
and is known as the ‘King of Spices’. At one time, peppercorns were more valuable than gold and were used to pay for rent, taxes and dowries. In Europe there has always been a high demand for pepper as a food preservative and for adding heat and flavour to meat. This demand for pepper was what initiated the great explorers to set out on voyages in search of the Spice Islands.
The name pepper comes from the Sanskrit word pippali, which means berry. It originally referred to the Indian long pepper (Piper longum) which used to be quite common, but which is now difficult to find. The pepper used today is from the plant Piper nigrum, which is a perennial vine that originated on the
Malabar Coast of India. From India, the pepper vine was taken to Indonesia and then throughout the Far East to Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, Sri Lanka, Penang and Singapore. Pepper grows best near to the equator and today it is also grown in Thailand, tropical Africa, the South Sea Islands and Brazil.
Pepper must be dried before it is stored and sold for market. This brief outlines the important steps that should be taken pre-harvest and post-harvest to ensure that the dried pepper is of top quality for the market.
Types of pepper
Black peppercorns are the dried ripe berries from piper nigrum.
White peppercorns are the dehusked berry from piper nigrum. The pepper berries are
soaked to soften the outer skin, which is then removed to leave behind the pale inside
Green peppercorns are the fresh peppercorn berries, still on the long stem. Fresh
peppercorns are usually only available in the country they are grown. They are sometimes
pickled in brine or vinegar, or can be freeze-dried to preserve them.
Pepper is a branching perennial vine that grows to about 10m in height. It is often grown over other ‘live’ supports such as kapok or gliricidia or as an intercop in tea or coffee plantations. The plant has small white flowers that grow in groups of about 50 blossoms that form dense slender spikes. The berry-like fruits are round, about 0.5-1.0cm in diameter and contain a single seed.
The berries become yellowish red when they mature and have a hot taste and strong aroma. For optimum growth, the plant requires a long rainy season (over 2000mm annually), fairly high temperatures (20-40°C) and partial shade. It grows best in coastal areas or at elevations lower than 1200mm. The plant is usually propagated by stem cuttings, which are set out near a tree or a pole that can provide support for the vine. The vines begin to bear fruit 2 to 5 years after planting and continue to bear fruit every three years for up to about 40 years.
Pepper processing Practical Action
Harvesting at the correct stage of maturity is essential to produce high quality peppercorns. In Kerala, India, the crop takes 6-8 months from flowering until harvest. The pepper spikes are picked when one or two of the berries on the spike begin to turn orange and the berries are hard to touch. The whole spikes of berries are picked by hand. The flavour and pungency of pepper develop as the berries ripen and mature. Pepper berries can be harvested while they are still
green, but the dried peppercorns will have less heat and flavour than berries which are harvested later.
With the rising shortage of skilled workforce in agriculture, there’s a growing need for robotisation to perform labour-intensive and repetitive tasks in greenhouses. Enter SWEEPER, the EU-funded project developing a sweet pepper-harvesting robot that can help farmers reduce their costs.
The team of experts involved in the project recently gave a live demonstration of the technology in a commercial greenhouse in the Netherlands. A video on the project website shows the robot in action. The video explains that the SWEEPER robot consists of an autonomous mobile platform with a robotic arm holding an end effector for fruit harvesting.
As stated in a press release on the project website, the robot is “designed to operate in a single stem row cropping system, with a crop having non-clustered fruits and little leaf occlusion.” According to the same press release, preliminary test results showed that by using commercially available crop modified to mimic the required conditions, the robot harvests ripe bell peppers in 24 seconds with a success rate of 62 %. In laboratory experiments it was possible to harvest 1 fruit in less than 15 seconds, excluding platform movement.
The ongoing SWEEPER project builds on CROPS (Intelligent sensing and manipulation for sustainable production and harvesting of high value crops, clever robots for crops), a previous EU-funded project. The CROPS software modules based on the robotic operating system is maintained and expanded in SWEEPER. In addition, the gripper end effector is retained. SWEEPER improved on CROPS’ pepper harvester technology by building in sensors and advancing algorithms to improve the localisation of fruit and the detection of fruit maturity, as explained on CORDIS. “The robot can now detect obstacles and can calculate a collision-free path to the fruit, allowing maximum free space to grip and cut off the fruit.”
The project team also plans to add a conveyor belt and harvest trolley to the SWEEPER system and automate post-harvest fruit and vegetable packing logistics. The SWEEPER (Sweet Pepper Harvesting Robot) project’s main objective is to “put the first-generation greenhouse harvesting robots onto the market,” its website explains. It addresses some of the issues that growers face in the greenhouse sector, including labour costs, availability, food safety and quality.
Project partners expect the commercial sweet pepper-harvesting robot to be available within a few years. They also anticipate that the technology will be transferred to other crops. The SWEEPER team notes that further research is needed to make the robot work even faster and reach a higher harvest success rate.
The project brings together a wide range of disciplines. These include horticulture, horticultural engineering, machine vision, sensing, robotics, control, intelligent systems, software architecture, system integration and greenhouse crop management.