PRELIMINARY FINDINGS ON PRODUCING ORGANIC VIDALIA ONIONS

in HortScience

There has been interest in producing Vidalia onions organically among both conventional and organic growers. In the 2000–01 season we began to look at producing onions organically. Starting with conventionally produced transplants that were transplanted at standard commercial spacings on beds prepared with 10.2–15.2 cm of incorporated compost and 2,802 kg·ha–1 rate of fresh poultry litter. This was sidedressed with an additional 2,500 less/acre (2,802 kg·ha–1) poultry litter. Yields were about half of conventional onion production. In 2002–03, production of organic transplants with 10.2 cm of incorporated compost with 2.24 t·ha–1 rate of poultry litter, which was followed by an additional sidedressing of 2.24 t·ha–1 rate of poultry litter resulted in similar findings. The weight of harvested transplants was about half that of conventionally produced transplants. In the 2002–03 and 2003–04 seasons various natural mulches were evaluated for weed control. They included wheat straw, oat straw, Bermuda hay, pine straw, and compost. None of these performed better than hand weeding and the wheat straw, oat straw, and Bermuda hay actually reduced yields apparently due to allelopathic effects. Finally in the 2003–04 season rates of poultry litter from 0–22.4 t·ha–1 were evaluated for transplant production with rates of 13.4, 17.9, and 22.4 t·ha–1

yielding plants comparable to conventional transplants. Work continues in the area of organic Vidalia onion production. One of the greatest challenge for future work will be finding a cost-effective and practical method of controlling weeds in transplant production.

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