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.

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