Bell peppers can boost vegetable production in Bangladesh

BHEARD scholar Mohammad Yamin Kabir thinks bell pepper would make an excellent addition to the Bangladeshi diet.

Vegetables – a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fibers and sometimes proteins – are an important and growing crop in Bangladesh, and farmers there are struggling to keep up with rising consumption. About 162,000 Bangladeshi farmers grow more than 60 different vegetables today, but they occupy only about 1.8% of cultivable land. There’s room for more.

Mohammad Yamin Kabir, a scholar with the Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development (BHEARD) program, is studying one way to increase production in his home country: add a new vegetable to the existing supply. He thinks bell pepper would make an excellent addition to the Bangladeshi diet.

The goal of BHEARD, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is to develop agricultural scientists and increase agricultural research capacity in its partner countries. The program is named after Dr. Norman Borlaug, an American biologist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate who has been called “the father of the Green Revolution.”

Kabir, seeking a Ph.D. in horticulture at the University of Georgia (UGA), plans to return to Bangladesh in the summer of 2018 and earn his doctorate in August 2019. Following his graduation, Kabir plans to return to his position as a lecturer and researcher at Khulna University.

At UGA, Kabir has been studying how abiotic factors like shade, irrigation and calcium affect bell pepper attributes like quality, plant growth, physiology and fruit yield. He’s doing similar research in tomato, too.

Bell pepper has been grown in Bangladesh for nearly two decades, but not on a large scale. Initial cultivation was confined to the area around Dhaka, the capital city. Cultivation has expanded, however, due to its popularity in urban areas. Bell pepper – commonly known in the country as capsicum, or sweet pepper, to separate it from hot peppers – has several advantages for consumers: it can be consumed fresh or cooked; it’s rich in vitamins A and C, phenolic compounds and fibers; it’s low in calories; it contains a trace amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Research on bell pepper production in Bangladesh has been limited. To start closing that gap, Kabir has conducted a few experiments. In one experiment at UGA’s Horticulture Farm in Tifton, Georgia, in spring 2016, he evaluated the effect of black shade nets on the plant growth, physiology and fruit yield of the Bayonet variety. He found that growing under shade resulted in taller plants with larger leaves and a greater number of leaves per plant. As shade level increased, individual fruit weight and percent marketable fruit increased as well. And moderate shade levels reduced sunscald by 17% compared to peppers in open fields.

Based on the Bayonet experiment, Kabir concluded that moderate levels of shade can improve plant growth, gas exchange, plant water status, fruit yield and other factors in bell pepper. Another experiment he conducted on the Aristotle variety in 2017 got similar results. He plans to continue his research in Bangladesh.

 – Matt Milkovich

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