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Maria A. Macias-Leon and Daniel I. Leskovar

In the United States, most short-day onions are direct seeded. With this method, plant stands can be reduced because of extreme temperatures, weed pressure, and soil-borne diseases. Containerized transplants offer an alternative method of stand establishment with less seedling losses while producing uniform bulb sizes and high marketable yield. However, the use of transplants is not a widespread commercial practice because of the high cost of production. This study aims to select the best transplant strategies to improve onion crop performance in semiarid regions of southwest Texas or similar environments. Three sequential transplanting dates of early, mid, and late season (14 Nov., 8 Dec., and 9 Jan.) and two seedling densities of one seed per cell (T1) and three seeds per cell (T3) were evaluated on growth, yield, bulb quality, and phytonutrient content of three onion cultivars, two yellow (‘Caramelo’ and ‘Don Victor’), and one red (‘Lambada’). During early development, late-transplanted onions had an increase in plant height and greater leaf elongation rate than early and midtransplanted onions, whereas early plantings required more days to reach maturity than mid and late plantings. Overall, early and midtransplanting dates resulted in higher yields than late plantings. Although increasing seedling density (T3 vs. T1) did not significantly reduce marketable yield in early plantings, T1 produced a higher number of jumbo and colossal bulb sizes than T3. Onion quality was mostly affected by cultivar and not by transplant strategies. The technique of establishing onions from transplants grown from one plant per cell (T1) or multiple plants (T3) from early November to early December provides a practical and economical alternative to achieve earlier crops, while reducing the length of the production season, as planting date is delayed.

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Maria A. Macias-Leon and Daniel I. Leskovar

Onions (Allium cepa L.) are easily outcompeted by weeds because of slow germination and relative growth rates. Therefore, high percentage of seed germination and root vigor are important traits to improve field performance. The effects of exogenous plant growth regulators (PGRs), 2-chloroethylphosphonic acid (ethephon, Eth), indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), trans-zeatin (tZ), and 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) were evaluated on the germination and root growth of ‘Don Victor’ (yellow) and ‘Lambada’ (red) onion seedlings. Seeds were soaked for 10 hours in hormonal solutions and water (hydro-priming). Seed germination improved with Eth (30 and 100 μm), Eth (100 μm) + IAA (10 μm), and IAA (3 μm) treatments. Root surface area (RSA) increased in response to Eth at 30 and 100 μm, Eth + IAA, and 3 μm IAA. Root length (RL) and root diameter (RD) were enhanced by 1 μm tZ and 100 μm ACC. Eth reduced RL and RD, whereas IAA showed no effects. A subsequent experiment evaluated synergistic effects of different PGRs. Treatment of seeds with ACC (250 μm) + tZ (0.5 μm) and ACC (250 μm) + tZ (0.5 μm) + Eth (20 μm) enhanced RL and RD. RSA was unaffected by ACC + tZ + Eth. The results suggest that exogenous PGRs could be useful to enhance germination, RL, and RSA of onion seedlings.