A team of scientists from the USDA Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Beltsville Agricultural Research Center's Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory, and the U.S. National Arboretum's Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit developed novel ornamental/culinary pepper (Capsicum annuum) breeding material from which they created the award-winning cultivar Black Pearl.
This cultivar is highly drought-tolerant, and displays colorful fruit and black foliage that provides an attractive display throughout the growing season. Black Pearl shows solid, true black-pigmented foliage desired by consumers and produces small, black, round fruit that is hot, turns red at maturity and can be harvested for culinary spice. Novel peppers have the highest per unit value of any pepper product. Black Pearl provides an alternative high-value crop for greenhouse pot plant/transplant production and an innovative high-value farm crop. It is the first successful black foliage pepper with true black pigmentation in the commercial market.
The USDA-ARS research team actively promoted the concept of new pepper ideotypes for ornamental and dual-purpose ornamental/culinary applications. They communicated with leaders in the crop development and production industry, and identified prospective partners with the capacity to bring research products to the market.
As a result of these efforts, a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) was developed with one of the largest seed companies in the world, Pan America Seed Company, a division of Ball Horticultural Company, to develop novel vegetable germplasm. Material Transfer Agreements were executed for the exchange and testing of plant material. An application for and the award of a U.S. Plant Variety Protection Certificate in 2006 allowed the private partner to obtain exclusive license to commercialize the invention.
Black Pearl shows solid, true black-pigmented foliage desired by consumers and produces small, black, round fruit that is hot, turns red at maturity and can be harvested for culinary spice.
Black Pearl is marketed worldwide in wholesale and retail markets. This cultivar has been honored with prestigious awards for horticultural quality. It was recognized internationally in Europe as a 2005 Quality Award Winner by Fleuroselect, the International Organization for the Ornamental Plants Industry. In addition, Black Pearl received 12 awards during 2006-2012, including a U.S. 2006 All-America Selections award for superior performance in impartial trials conducted across North America.
The expectations of USDA-ARS and the private parties were fully met in the creation of a new pepper cultivar that brings new versatility to the utilization of vegetables in the garden and landscape. Black Pearl has been widely adopted by the nursery trade, botanic gardens, arboreta and gardeners, and has created an increased demand for garden plants with novel foliage color, resulting in their use as standard elements to consider in garden design.