Got a problem with rodents eating your plant seeds? Scientists think that ghost peppers might be the solution.
After 4 years of laboratory and field experiments in Montana’s Missoula Valley, scientists found a natural solution to prevent rodent seed predation. The solution came in the form of a powder made from the Bhut jolokia, or ghost pepper, which is one of the hottest peppers on earth. The Bhut jolokia naturally produces capsaicin to deter would be predators. Scientists created a solution with the pepper which could be applied to any plant to deny rodents of a tasty snack.
Here’s the abstract from Restoration Ecology Journal
Seed predation by rodents presents a significant barrier to native plant recruitment and can impede restoration seeding efforts. In nature, some plants contain secondary defense compounds that deter seed predators. If these natural defense compounds can be applied to unprotected seeds to inhibit rodent granivores, this approach could improve restoration seeding. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili‐pepper (Capsicum spp.) seeds that creates the burning sensation associated with human consumption of hot peppers. This compound has a similar effect on other mammals and is believed to have evolved as a deterrent to rodent seed predators. We used seed‐coating techniques to attach powder ground from Bhut Jolokia (C. chinense) peppers to native plant seeds and evaluated the efficacy of these seed coatings for deterring rodent seed predation and enhancing native plant recruitment using laboratory and field experiments. Laboratory feeding trials demonstrated that native deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) consumed far fewer pepper‐coated seeds compared with untreated control seeds. Field seed‐addition experiments consistently demonstrated that rodent seed predation reduced native plant recruitment over the four year study. Coating techniques used in the first three years were not persistent enough to reduce rodent seed predation effects on plant recruitment. However, a more persistent coating applied in conjunction with late‐winter sowing negated rodent seed predation effects on recruitment in year four. Our results demonstrate that coating seeds with natural plant defense compounds may provide an effective, economical way to improve the efficacy of plant restoration by deterring seed predation by ubiquitous rodent granivores.
Why not try this method in your own garden? In this video, you can learn the step by step process of planting in a new garden bed and more tips for planting peppers. Just be careful, ghost peppers are extremely spicy and can cause extreme pain if you get them in your mouth or eyes.