By Julio P. Yap Jr.

Following the surge in the prices of siling labuyo or hot chilli pepper during the latter part of 2018, farmers should take advantage of the opportunity to plant the crop in their respective farms.

However, utmost care and caution should be considered by the farmers, like for instance, the variety which they will be planting and the inputs which they will be using.

According to Rudy Dean of Allied Botanical Corporation (ABC), cultivating hot chilli has been proven to provide bright prospects for the farmers, considering that it is now a high-value crop.

Following the surge in the prices of siling labuyo during the latter part of 2018, farmers should take advantage of the opportunity to cultivate the crop.

Dean recommends the use of the Condor Pinatubo F1 Hybrid Hot Pepper variety, which he says, is very prolific. He says, the fruits of the Pinatubo F1 variety can be used as fresh or for processing into different kinds of products. It is twice as hot as the Thai Hot pepper, and is now being sold and accepted by major food processors in the country for the production of various hot sauces. The Pinatubo F1 variety is said to have 180,000 to 200,000 Scoville heat units. The Scoville index is the measure of hotness in chilli, and was named after Wilbur Scoville of the United States, who developed the heat index in chilli.

Thailand’s hot pepper is said to have 90,000 Scoville heat units only, while the Pinatubo has 120,000 Scoville heat units. He says that the Pinatubo F1 Hybrid Hot Pepper variety has longer fruits and more tolerant to stress, especially during the rainy season.

Pinatubo is much easy to cultivate. For a start, Dean says, proper distribution of each seed to each hole or compartment of a seedling tray can result in a better production of seedling. This can be achieved by using Klasmann TS3 as the soil medium.

Just after 18 to 21 days of sowing the seeds, the seedlings can be transplanted to the prepared plots which are fortified with about 100 grams of organic fertilizers like vermicompost for each planting hole.

Afterwards, watering the transplanted seedlings should be done regularly, with three days interval. Then after 20 days, plant supplements, like urea and complete fertilizer, should be applied to help attain proper growth and branching.

After 45 days from transplanting, combine complete fertilizer and potassium, because the chilli plant usually needs a considerable amount of potash. Potash is a source of soluble potassium, one of the three primary plant nutrients. It is an essential element for the proper growth of plants, animals, and human life.

Farmers should also remember to always observe proper sanitation in their farms to prevent the attack of pests and diseases.

Some 75 days after, a farmer can start harvesting the first batch of fully-ripe red fruits of the Pinatubo variety.

However, this could be done when the weather is sunny because it helps the production of fruits to ripen and become bright red in color.

Dean says harvesting can be regularly done every seven days, or even every four days, when the fruits become ready for harvest.

With the healthy performance of the chilli plants, it usually takes around 200 pieces of chilli fruits to attain one-kilo.

But if ever the price of hot chilli pepper becomes too low, the farmer can sun-dry the fruits and later process them into chilli powder, which commands a high price in the market.

Planting hot chilli is profitable because the plant can continue to survive and bear fruits from six months and even up to one year, depending, of course, on the care which a farmer can provide.

Farmers should also remember to always observe proper sanitation in their farms to prevent the attack of pests and diseases.

With these simple steps, farmers may be able to augment their income, and perhaps, look forward to have a better selling price of their produce, following what transpired late last year to the farmgate price of hot chilli pepper.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s February 2019 issue.