Can chili peppers improve restoration seeding by reducing seed predation?
This study 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.