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George E. Boyhan, Reid L. Torrance, Jeff Cook, Cliff Riner and C. Randell Hill

Onions (Allium cepa) produced in southeastern Georgia's Vidalia-growing region are primarily grown from on-farm produced bareroot transplants, which are usually sown at the end of September. These transplants are pulled midwinter (November to January) and reset to their final spacing. This study was to evaluate sowing date, transplanting date, and variety effect on yield and quality of onions. Beginning in the first week of November, onions can be transplanted until the end of December with reasonable yield and quality. For example, in the 2003–04 season, total yield of onions transplanted on 22 Dec. 2003 did not differ from any onions transplanted on earlier dates in November or December. In the 2004–05 season, onions transplanted on 20 Dec. 2004, had lower total yield than onions transplanted in November, but were not different from onions transplanted on 4 Jan. 2005. The propensity of some varieties to form double bulbs can be reduced with later sowing and transplanting dates. Sowing the first week of October rather than the fourth week of September and transplanting in December rather than November can reduce double bulbs in some varieties.

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George E. Boyhan, Reid L. Torrance, Jeff Cook, Cliff Riner and C. Randell Hill

Onions (Allium cepa) produced in southeastern Georgia's Vidalia-growing region are primarily grown from on-farm–produced bareroot transplants, which are usually sown the end of September. These transplants are pulled midwinter (November–January) and are reset to their final spacing. This study was to evaluate transplant size and spacing effects on yield and quality of onions. Large transplants (260–280 g per 20 plants) generally produced the highest yield. Medium transplant size in the range of 130 to 150 g per 20 plants produced satisfactory yield while maintaining low numbers of seedstems (flowering) and doubled bulbs, which are undesirable characteristics. Smaller transplant size (40–60 g per 20 plants) have reduced yields and lower numbers of seedstems and double bulbs. Increasing plant population from 31,680 to 110,880 plants/acre can increase yield. In addition, plant populations of 110,880 plants/acre can increase yields compared with 63,360 plants/acre (industry standard), but only when environmental conditions favor low seedstem numbers. Seedstems can be high because of specific varieties, high plant population, or more importantly, in years with environmental conditions that are conducive to their formation. ‘Sweet Vidalia’ was the only variety that had consistently reduced quality and high numbers of seedstems. ‘Sweet Vidalia’ has a propensity for high seedstem numbers, which may have influenced results with this variety. A complete fertilization program that included 133 or 183 lb/acre nitrogen did not affect onion yield, regardless of variety or population density.

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George E. Boyhan, Ray J. Hicks, Reid L. Torrance, Cliff M. Riner and C. Randell Hill

In a 3-year study of poultry litter applications on short-day onion (Allium cepa) production, where rates ranged from 0 to 10 tons/acre, there was an increasing linear effect on total onion yield. Jumbo (≥3 inches diameter) onion yield did not differ with increasing poultry application rates, while medium (≥2 and <3 inches diameter) yields decreased with increasing applications of poultry litter. In addition, organic-compliant fertilizers, 4N–0.9P–2.5K at 150 to 250 lb/acre nitrogen (N), as well as 13N–0P–0K at 150 lb/acre N and in combination with 9N–0P–7.5K totaling 150 lb/acre N were evaluated. Comparison of these commercial organic-compliant fertilizers indicated that there were no differences in total or jumbo yields, while medium yields generally decreased with increased N fertilizer rate.

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Juan Carlos Díaz-Pérez, Jesús Bautista, Anthony Bateman, Guna Gunawati and Cliff Riner

‘Vidalia’ onions are sweet, short day, low pungency, yellow Granex-type bulbs that are popular in the United States. The relationships of sweet onion bulb yield and quality with potassium (K) and sulfur (S) concentrations are not fully understood. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of K and S fertilization rates on sweet onion plant growth and bulb yield and quality. Experiments were conducted at the Horticulture Farm, Tifton Campus, University of Georgia, in the Winters of 2012–13 and 2013–14. The experiment had five treatments (K/S rates: 56/80, 112/126, 168/172, 224/218, and 280/264 kg·ha−1 of K and S, respectively). K/S rates had no effect on onion biomass of roots, bulbs, and shoots during the growing season. Marketable and total number and weight of onion bulbs and individual bulb weight were also unaffected by K/S rate. Incidences of bolting, double bulbs, Botrytis leaf blight (Botrytis cinerea), and sour skin (Burkholderia cepacia), and bulb dry weight, soluble solids content (SSC), and pungency (pyruvate concentration) were unaffected by K/S rates. In conclusion, K/S rates had little effect on plant growth and bulb yield and quality. The lack of response of onion plants to K/S rates, even at the lowest rate suggests that some of the K absorbed by plants originated from K already present in the soil before planting. The average K content of sweet onion whole plants was 80 kg·ha−1 K. Thus, under our experimental conditions, application of K rates above the recommended value (84 kg·ha−1 K) are unnecessary and will likely not improve plant growth, yield, or quality. Regarding S, rates higher than 80 kg·ha−1 S are probably unnecessary and will not enhance either plant growth or bulb yield or quality of sweet onion.

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Juan Carlos Díaz-Pérez, Jesús Bautista, Gunawati Gunawan, Anthony Bateman and Cliff Martin Riner

Vidalia onions (Allium cepa L.) are sweet, short-day, low pungency, yellow Granex-type bulbs that are popular in the United States because of their mild flavor. There are limited studies on sweet onion plant growth in response to organic fertilization rate. The objective of this report was to evaluate the effects of organic fertilizer rates on sweet onion plant growth, and leaf and bulb mineral nutrients. Experiments were carried out at the Horticulture Farm, Tifton Campus, University of Georgia, in the Winters of 2012–13 and 2013–14. There were five treatments [organic fertilizer 3–2–3 equivalent to 0, 60, 120, 180, and 240 kg·ha−1 nitrogen (N)]. During the season and at the mature plant stage, root, stem, and bulb biomass increased whereas the root-to-shoot ratio decreased with increasing fertilization rate up to 120 kg·ha−1 N. Foliar concentrations of N and Ca decreased whereas Cu concentration increased with increasing organic fertilization rate. Bulb Mg and Mn increased whereas P and Cu decreased with increasing organic fertilization rate. The accumulation of mineral nutrients by onion whole plants increased quadratically (N, P, K, and S) or linearly (Ca and Mg) with increasing fertilization rate. The N use efficiency decreased with increasing organic fertilization rate; the agronomic efficiency of N (AEN) decreased quadratically and the marginal yield decreased linearly with increasing fertilization rate. Chlorophyll indices (CI) were highest with 240 kg·ha−1 N and lowest with 0 kg·ha−1 N. In conclusion, onion plant growth increased with increasing organic fertilizer rate probably because of augmented soil N levels. Observation of nutrient deficiencies late in the season, even at high organic fertilization rates, indicates that preplant application of organic fertilizer was sufficient to cover plant nutritional needs only partially and that applications of N fertilizer later in the season may be necessary. High application rates of organic fertilizer (above those required by the crop) may have resulted in significant N leaching because it is unlikely that the crop used most of the N that was mineralized. Bulb concentrations of P, K, Ca, Mg, S, B, Fe, Cu, and Mn were higher compared with values reported in the literature for onions produced with inorganic fertilizers.

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Juan Carlos Díaz-Pérez, Jesús Bautista, Gunawati Gunawan, Anthony Bateman and Cliff Martin Riner

There is a growing interest in organic fertilizers because of increased demand for organic sweet onions and other vegetables. There are, however, limited studies on sweet onion bulb yield and quality in response to organic fertilization. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of organic fertilizer rate on sweet onion bulb yield and bulb quality before and after storage. Experiments were conducted at the Horticulture Farm, Tifton Campus, University of Georgia, in the Winters of 2012–13 and 2013–14. There were five organic fertilization treatments (organic fertilizer 3–2–3 equivalent to 0, 60, 120, 180, and 240 kg·ha−1 N). Total and marketable yields and individual bulb weight increased quadratically with increasing organic fertilization rate and responses failed to reach a plateau. The fraction of extra-large bulb increased with increasing organic fertilization rate. Incidence of onion bolting was maximal at 60 kg·ha−1 N and decreased with increasing organic fertilization rate. The percentage of bulb dry weight was highest in the unfertilized control and decreased with increasing organic fertilization rate. Organic fertilization rate had no consistent impact on bulb soluble solids content (SCC) and pungency (measured as pyruvate concentration) in the two seasons. Total antioxidant capacity (measured as gallic acid equivalents) values were among the lowest at 60 and 120 kg·ha−1 N. In conclusion, onion bulb yields increased with increasing organic fertilization rate, whereas incidences of bulb diseases responded differently to N rate. Botrytis rot was the main cause of postharvest bulb decay in all organic fertilization rates.