WALLA WALLA SWEET ONION STORAGE AND SHELF LIFE

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  • 1 Dept. of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Washington State Univ., Pullman, WA 99164-6414
  • | 2 Dept. of Plant, Soil and Ent. Sci., Univ. of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83843.

Walla Walla Sweet onions (Allium cepa L.) have a short storage and marketing season. Studies to determine viable shelf life and to extend post-harvest life with controlled atmosphere (CA) storage were conducted. Onions were exposed to various CA gas mixtures in combination with heat curing (35°C) and/or chlorine dioxide (ClO2) fumigation, to control disease. Preliminary results indicated Botrytis was the primary cause of post-harvest losses. A 1% O2, 5% CO2 atmosphere appeared to maintain onion quality better than other gas mixtures tested during 15 weeks of CA storage (0°C). Carbon dioxide series above 5% show promise in reducing the 35% storage loss that occurred with the 5% CO2 treatment. Curing for at least 72 hours followed by a 1-hour ClO2 fumigation resulted in the least bulb decay and after 15 weeks of storage (1% O2, 5% CO2), 75% of the bulbs were in marketable condition. Onions stored 15 weeks in air (0°C, 70% RH) were unmarketable. Shelf life of freshly harvested onions was 18 days, after which the onions rapidly decayed. After CA storage, shelf life was reduced to 10-14 days due to rapid sprouting. To enjoy a 30-day market window, disease control is necessary for freshly harvested onions and sprouting must be controlled in post-storage onions.

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