UCF Botanical Society to create enhanced peppers through plant breeding project

The UCF Botanical Society is working on a plant breeding initiative to create a tasteful pepper with medicinal value. The Plant Breeding Initiative, a biology department project, is run by students who are on the plant sciences track. Chase Mason, a biology associate professor, and faculty advisor, said the project consists of combining both phenotypic and genotypic data to make targeted crosses.

Mason said that phenotypic data refers to the physical traits of an organism and genotypic data refers to a set of DNA responsible for those unique traits. The exchange makes it possible to cross specific traits and characteristics of the pepper. 

The project started in 2019 when Mason said the group first decided what plant to grow. "The first year was sort of a planning year; we weren't sure on what we should work on," Mason said. "So what I had the students do was to come up with a hundred of ideas and narrow them down, so we came up with peppers. Primarily because it was easy to grow, good for this climate, really diverse, culinary and culturally important globally."

Mason said the choices of peppers were not in vain. He said in addition to the ease of growing this type of plant, and it is culturally important for many different types of countries. "We are in Central Florida, which is a very diverse region, and there are a lot of awesome culinary traditions that have come together in Central Florida," Mason said. "And peppers are important for many of them, whether you are talking about South Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and South America. All kinds of peppers are used differently, so it seemed to be relevant."

Read the complete article at www.nicholsonstudentmedia.com.

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