This year my organic hot pepper garden will be 8x8, planning on planting 6 rows, each a separate variety in that space. My question is, do I ever need to worry about cross-pollination ? I have come across text that says the Bhut Jolokia will cross pollinate.
My varieties will be:
Bhut would most likely cross pollinate with a c.chinese variety of pepper like habaneros, scotch bonnets, etc.since those are it's closest "relatives", and c.annum because it crosses with pretty much every other pepper.
If you're hoping to save seeds from the bhut jolokia (like I am) you should keep them separated so you know the seeds won't be a cross. In my case I have enough space to keep them far away from my other plants but if that's not an option for you it's pretty easy to use some fine netting or fabric and keep a few growing tips isolated until they bloom. That way you can hand pollinate specific flowers and save the seeds from them and just eat the others. (cross pollinated fruit will still be 100% bhut, only the seeds are affected)
If you don't like hand pollinating and prefer bugs pollinating you can try
-netting each pepper plant
-uncover one at a time (or same breed) for two days each
I do agree that hand pollinating is a bit annoying but its very successful for keeping a pure strain. One year I collected my cayenne seeds and what I didn't know was that my neighbor had other peppers plants. Apparently, some crossed and I got some really decieving fruit. Some had heat, others nothing, and some pow! haha
Peppers, like tomatoes and eggplant are self pollinating. Meaning they don't need insects to pollinate them like squash or cucumber do. All they need for pollination is the wind or you can flick the blooms with your finger. So you bag them then flick them.
BTW on more then one occasion I have had peppers that had visibly crossed with their neighbor.