Sweet onions (Allium cepa L.) are typically grown on bare soil and irrigated with high-pressure systems such as sprinklers or center-pivots. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of irrigation system and mulch on bolting, bulb yield and bulb quality over 3 years. The experimental design was a split plot, where the main plot was irrigation system (drip or sprinkler) and the subplot was the type of mulch (bare soil, black plastic film or wheat straw). The results showed that individual bulb weight and bulb yields under drip irrigation were similar to those under sprinkler irrigation. Plants grown on bare soil had the highest total yield during the three seasons and among the highest marketable yield. There were no consistent differences in the bulb number or yield of plants on plastic film mulch compared to those of plants on wheat straw mulch. Plants on wheat straw mulch had reduced foliar nitrogen content. Variability in yields among mulches and seasons was partly explained by changes in seasonal root zone temperature and soil water potential. Total and marketable yields and weight of individual bulbs increased with increasing root zone temperatures up to an optimum at 15.8 °C, followed by reductions in yields and individual bulb weight at >15.8 °C. Onion bolting increased with decreasing foliage nitrogen content, with plants on wheat straw having the highest bolting incidence. Bolting also increased with decreasing root zone temperatures for the season. Total and marketable yields increased with decreasing mean seasonal soil water potential down to -30 kPa. Irrigation system and mulches had no consistent effect on the soluble solids content or pungency of onion bulbs.
Juan C. Díaz-Pérez, William M. Randle, George Boyhan, Ronald W. Walcott, David Giddings, Denne Bertrand, Hunt F. Sanders, and Ronald D. Gitaitis
W. Carroll Johnson III, David B. Langston Jr., Daniel D. MacLean, F. Hunt Sanders Jr., Reid L. Torrance, and Jerry W. Davis
Field experiments were conducted from 2008 through 2010 near Lyons, GA, to develop integrated weed management systems for organic Vidalia® sweet onion (Allium cepa) production. Treatments were a factorial arrangement of summer solarization, cultivation with a tine weeder, and a clove oil herbicide. Plots were solarized with clear plastic mulch during the summer fallow period before transplanting onion. Cultivation treatments were twice at 2-week intervals, four times at 2-week intervals, and a noncultivated control. Herbicide treatments were clove oil plus vinegar, clove oil plus an emulsified petroleum oil (EPO) insecticide used as an adjuvant, and a nontreated control. ‘Savannah Sweet’ onions were transplanted in early-December each year, with cultivation and herbicide applications events occurring the following January and February. Onions were harvested the following spring. In addition to yield measurement, a subsample of harvested onion was stored in a controlled atmospheric (CA) storage facility to evaluate treatment effects on diseases of stored onion. Summer fallow solarization did not control the cool-season weeds present in these trials. Cultivating transplanted onion with a tine weeder effectively managed cutleaf eveningprimrose (Oenothera laciniata) and swinecress (Coronopus didymus) and improved onion yields in 2 of 3 years. There was little difference in overall performance between two cultivations and four cultivations with the tine weeder. The 1 year of marginal weed control with the tine weeder was due to persistently wet soils during winter months that inhibited optimum performance of the implement. Clove oil, combined with vinegar or an EPO insecticide, provided marginal weed control and had no effect on onion yield. Diseases of stored onion were unaffected by any of the treatment combinations, although overall incidence of diseases of stored onion was higher in 2010 compared with other years. This corresponds with the 1 year of marginal weed control with the tine weeder, suggesting that the presence of weeds may be a factor related to disease incidence during storage.