Most commercial varieties are hybrids. Varieties have a primary mature colour that is usually green, but may be yellow or purple. They also have a secondary mature colour that is usually red, but may be orange or yellow or other colours. Fruit picked at this stage is much sweeter than green fruit and has more pro-vitamin A. There are also black, cream, brown and lime coloured varieties.
New varieties are always being introduced, so check with your local seed supplier or nursery. These varieties may be more resistant to disease, produce higher yields of fruit, produce more uniform fruit or be more suited to the latest market requirements for quality. Before planting new varieties on a large scale, compare them in small plantings to existing varieties under the same growing conditions.
Growers produce a range of varieties as well as standard chillies such as Firefly (9cm long and 1.5cm wide). These include the hottest variety, Habanaro, and the most well known world variety, Jalapeno. They may also include oval chillies such as Cherry Bomb and small chillies such as Cascabella.
The pungent small mature green (primary colour) or red (secondary colour) chillies are in most demand. Long sweet yellow type varieties are grown on a small scale and are often called ‘paprika’ in Western Australia, but note that this term should be used for dried red capsicums. They are large, compared with most chilli varieties and have a very low pungency when picked at the yellow stage (before ripening to red). There are also orange chillies that have high pungency.
Seedlings may be raised in beds or nurseries by the grower, but are usually ordered from specialised nurseries for delivery in single cell-packs in 8 to 10 weeks.
Transplanting is done by hand or machine.
In Perth, plant early crops from July to September in warm, well-protected areas. Unprotected crops make slow early growth and harvesting is often delayed. Low plastic tunnels or cloches aid the production of early crops. Transplant the main capsicum crop from September to December. Chillies are slower to mature than capsicums.
In Carnarvon, transplant from late February to August. Transplanting early in the year is best so that crops can become well established before the onset of cool weather.
The choice of spacing depends on irrigation layout and tractor access for fertiliser application, boom spraying and harvesting. In Perth, a good spacing between plants is 75cm (two rows per bed) by 40 cm which gives 30 000 plants per hectare.
In Carnarvon, space plants in a double row with plants 40cm apart between the rows and 30cm apart within the rows, with row centres at 1.5m apart. Wide spacings allow picking over a long period, while close spacings will give high yields over a short period and better pollination in hot periods.