Science Questions

What happens when a mild chilli plant gets pollinated with hot chilli pollen?

Sun, 12th Oct 2008

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Question

Martin Fennel asked:

What happens when a mild chilli plant gets pollinated with hot chilli pollen?

 

Answer

Kat - It's an interesting question. The misconception is that if you grow two plants close together (a hot one and a cool one) their peppers will be hot on the cool plant. Potentially their seeds could give rise to hot peppers in the next generation because the heat pepper is determined by capsaicin in the genes that make capsaicin. These are actually dominant genes so effectively if you breed a hot plant to a cool plant then the next generation those seeds will potentially be hotter, yes.

Chris - but the fruits of the plant that are making them, they're just the genes of the plant that's growing the chillies. You've got to do the breeding experiment and grown the next generation.

Kat - Exactly. You have to take the F1 generation and plant them and then you'll get an interesting blend depending on the peppers you've bred together.

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Martin Fennell asked the Naked Scientists:

Hi,

I have a number of chilli plants growing on my work windowsill. As I pollinate them (there are no bees in the office) I got to wondering. "If I take pollen from a hot variety of chilli and pollinate a milder variety, does the genetic information for the heat pass into the fruit of this generation or only into the seeds?"

"Does it make a difference if the pollen comes from a mild variety and is used to pollinate a hotter variety?"

Thanks

Martin

What do you think? Martin Fennell, Fri, 4th Jul 2008

I can't be bothered to read it all, but you may find an answer here or here DoctorBeaver, Fri, 4th Jul 2008

Hi Martin

great question, and I have to confess that I have (attempted) to do some windowsill pollination to promote domestic chilli production, though admittedly with little success!

However, pollination is plant sex and this means mixing genes from one plant with those from another. The resulting progeny will therefore be hybrids - mixtures - of the two, and the phenotype - the appearance - of the daughter plants will be dictated by which of the inherited genes are dominant.

I don't know whether hotness (which is determined by the amount of the chemical capsaicin present in the fruit) is a dominant feature or not. What is definitely the case, however, is that this is one tasty experiment that is well worth pursuing I'd say!

Chris chris, Sun, 6th Jul 2008

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