Sunday, May 27, 2018

Onion varieties show potential to improve productivity

April 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

Growers could achieve up to 30t/ha more in yields of set and drilled onion crops by selecting the best performing varieties, suggest the latest trial results.

Losses from waste due to rot in storage could also be reduced by up to 60% in some varieties of brown and red onions – resulting in more efficient harvests, according to the trials, jointly funded by AHDB and seed companies.

The trials suggest the variety Santero offers good resistance to downy-mildew as well as good storage potential. Mildew-resistant varieties require less costly plant protection products and are useful as well as a valuable addition for organic growers.

Selection factors

Onion bulb production was worth £126.4m to the UK economy in 2016. AHDB knowledge exchange Dawn Teverson said:  “While yield data is important for growers when selecting varieties, other factors also need to be considered to increase productivity.

“These trials offer valuable objective data on maturity, so growers can stagger the harvest season; storage potential which can reduce waste and help to balance supply and demand; as well as disease resistance to help growers with long-term and sustainable integrated crop management.”

Grower Sam Rix, of PG Rix Farms, said: “We use the mildew results to inform decision making on variety suitability to fields that may be more prone to downy mildew infection. The early plant vigour data is also a useful guide to aid variety selection on potentially weedy sites.”

Storage potential

NIAB project lead Bruce Napier said one of the primary objectives was to assess the storage potential of new varieties. Nothing was more soul destroying than seeing a good crop go to waste, he added.

“It is vital that the harvest yield is maintained in store,” said Mr Napier. “A 40% difference in storage performance would equate to the equivalent of 24t/ha extra lost in the poorest performing varieties.”

Mr Rix added: “The storage data generated by the project is particularly important to assess dormancy levels and variety suitability for long term storage. As an industry this is the only source of independent data we have regarding storage.”

Results from several new cauliflower cultivars introduced in 2016-2017 trials also showed potential yield increases of 15% compared to standard varieties. Every additional one per cent of Class 1 produce marketed can result in an increase in potential income of £95/ha.

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