Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's Gonna Be A Crappy Year For Peppers - Again

Sigh, big SIGH.

This will be another year of runty stunty peppers.

And here's the reason why.

That plant is a four-year-old Manzano chile pepper, Capsicum pubescens, also known as a Rocoto chile. It keeps coming back year after year and according to Wikipedia pubescens plants can live up to 15 years. It has beautiful purple flowers. The peppers on my plant are yellow, but the species also produces red and orange peppers and perhaps other colors that I'm not aware of.

My plant is producing some particularly fine peppers this year. But I do believe that I'm going to have to kill it this winter. Why?

Look at leaves on this pepper plant.

And this plant...

And this plant...

And even my basil plants...

And all of the pepper plants in the garden...

What do they all have in common? Stunted and wrinkled leaves and overall stunting of the plants. I do believe that every single pepper plant in my garden is afflicted with a virus, probably cucumber mosaic virus, which can infect many more types of plants than just cucumbers. And I do believe that that Manzano chile pepper plant is the main reservoir in my garden for the virus.

Cucumber mosaic virus is easily spread by aphids and most, or more likely, all of my pepper seedlings hosted at least a few aphids this year. And all of my pepper seedlings were hardened off right next to that Manzano pepper plant.

There is no cure, no treatment for CMV, there aren't any CMV resistant peppers. Prevention is the key - try to control the vectors (aphids) as early as possible and eliminate as many nearby host plants for the disease as possible. So, this winter the Manzano will be going and so will all of the baccatum species peppers that I typically like to grow for a couple of years. This winter there will be absolutely no pepper plants left in the garden. Hopefully next year I can start with a clean slate. It would really break my heart to not be able to grow peppers again. And in the future I must resist the temptation to overwinter the cold hardy peppers and just grow new plants every year. I suspect that the overwintered plants probably pick up the virus from aphids that have picked up the virus from other host plants in neighborhood and then the aphids pass the virus from the overwintered plants to the new seedlings.

It's too late in the season to clean out the pepper patch now and start over again. There's a chance that I will get something of a pepper harvest. But, if it looks like the peppers won't produce then I may very well clean out the pepper bed and plant a big winter garden instead. The next few weeks will tell.

I wonder if eggplant is susceptible to CMV, they are pretty runty as well.

Dang, I wish I had figured this out a few weeks ago, there still would have been time to buy some plants and get them going for a late harvest. Well, actually, I should have figured this out last year. I guess I'm a little slow at some things.

Next year, things will be different next year...


  1. How terrible. I hope you can get rid of it out of your garden.

  2. That is a huge bummer. Isn't there enough time to run to a good local nursery and get some new peppers? I know jalapenos can be a bore, but let them turn dark red, chop them up, and let them ferment into a magical hot sauce!

  3. Oh, I'm so sorry. I know how much you love them and how on top of things you are.

  4. Fortunately I've never seen peppers with CMV. I'm with Erik, that is a major bummer. And since it's vectored by aphids, even containers wouldn't help. I do feel your pain. I know how disappointed I was last year when 60+ inches of rain did a number on my pepper hopes. I got some, just not enough. I'm hoping you can get it under control and have better luck next year!

  5. Try aspirin foliar sprays before giving up on the plants. 1 aspirin per gallon, spray every week to every other week. I tried it in desperation when most of my garden caught CMV from my neighbor's plants. I was going to lose all my squash and cucumbers. Even though everyone said there is no cure, the new growth came in symptom free after a month. You have nothing to lose at this point. If it doesn't work then yes, you will have to rip out every single plant that even MIGHT be infected. The disease is highly contagious and almost every plant you can think of (tomatoes, peppers, spinach, squash, melons, cucumbers, weeds, herbs, flowers) can harbor the virus.


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