Experiments determined the effectiveness of the bipyridinium herbicides paraquat and diquat and of the diphenyl ether herbicide lactofen to desiccate onion (Allium cepa L.) shoots without affecting bulb quality and storage life. Paraquat, applied once, desiccated 80% of onion shoots within 3 days. Diquat desiccated ≈ 60% of onion shoots within 10 days of treatment. Lactofen caused slight necrosis but did not adequately desiccate onion shoots. Diquat and paraquat reduced sprouting of `Red Wethersfield' more than of `White Portugal'. Chemical names used: 6,7-dihydrodipyrido[l,2 2',1'-c] pyrazinediium ion (diquat); (±)2-ethoxy-l-methyl-2-oxoethy1 5-[2chloro-4-(trifluoromethyl)phenoxyl] -2-nitrobenzoate (lactofen); 1,1'-dimethyl-4,4'-bipyridinium ion (paraquat).