Concept: Habanero chili
The ghost pepper, or “bhut jolokia,” is one of the hottest chili peppers in the world. Ghost peppers have a measured “heat” of > 1,000,000 Scoville heat units (SHU), more than twice the strength of a habanero pepper. To our knowledge, no significant adverse effects of ghost pepper ingestion have been reported.
Temperature is one of the main environmental factors involved in global warming and has been found to have a direct effect on plants. However, few studies have investigated the effect of higher temperature on tropical crops. We therefore performed an experiment with a tropical crop of Habanero pepper (Capsicum Chinense Jacq.). Three growth chambers were used, each with 30 Habanero pepper plants. Chambers were maintained at a diurnal maximum air temperature (DMT) of 30 (chamber 1), 35 (chamber 2) and 40°C (chamber 3). Each contained plants from seedling to fruiting stage. Physiological response to variation in DMT was evaluated for each stage over the course of five months. The results showed that both leaf area and dry mass of Habanero pepper plants did not exhibit significant differences in juvenile and flowering phenophases. However, in the fruiting stage, the leaf area and dry mass of plants grown at 40°C DMT were 51 and 58% lower than plants at 30°C DMT respectively. Meanwhile, an increase in diurnal air temperature raised both stomatal conductance and transpiration rate, causing an increase in temperature deficit (air temperature - leaf temperature). Thus, leaf temperature decreased by 5°C, allowing a higher CO2 assimilation rate in plants at diurnal maximum air temperature (40°C). However, in CO2 measurements when leaf temperature was set at 40°C, physiological parameters decreased due to an increase in stomatal limitation. We conclude that the thermal optimum range in a tropical crop such as Habanero pepper is between 30 and 35°C (leaf temperature, not air temperature). In this range, gas exchange through stomata is probably optimal. Also, the air temperature-leaf temperature relationship helps to explain how temperature keeps the major physiological processes of Habanero pepper healthy under experimental conditions.