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New Mexico State project seeks more nutritious chile peppers

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — It's no secret that chile is a popular and essential crop in New Mexico.

Now researchers at New Mexico State University are working to develop more nutritious and better-yielding chile pepper varieties to improve overall productivity in the nation's top chile-producing state.

Dennis Nicuh Lozada, the school's chile pepper breeder and director of the Chile Pepper Breeding and Genetics Program, is leading the four-year project.

It's funded by a nearly $489,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Lozada said the project's goal is to develop chile pepper varieties with improved nutritional quality and yield through a deeper understanding of the genetic basis underlying these traits.

Work on the project began this spring at NMSU's Leyendecker Plant Science Research Center in Las Cruces.

Lozada's research team is using two novel genomic approaches – genome-wide association studies and genomic selection – to accelerate the selection, breeding and development of chile pepper varieties with improved nutritional content and yield.

The researchers will first use genome-wide association studies to identify genetic markers linked with fruit morphology, nutritional content and yield in New Mexican chile peppers.

They then will implement genomic selection for fruit morphology, yield and nutritional quality-related traits and evaluate the effects of different factors on genomic selection accuracy.

Finally, the researchers will develop molecular markers that improve fruit morphology and nutritional content in chile peppers.