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  • Author or Editor: Reid Torrance x
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Metam sodium has been evaluated on onions in Georgia since the mid-1980s for control of various soil pathogens in the production of transplants. Observations also indicated excellent weed control activity. Further work showed significant growth response of transplants, 90% or better weed control, and efficacy of Phoma terrestris, Fusarium, and Pythium. Results were better in comparison studies than found with methyl bromide, chloropicrin, and other fumigation combinations. This led to use of the product in field production of dry bulb onions. Seven years of studies revealed an average yield increase of 190 bushels per acre over the control, even where Phoma terrestris levels were minimal. Today, almost all transplant production includes the use of metam sodium and field use is beginning to be used by growers. With limited crop rotation being practiced in the Vidalia onion belt, metam sodium will continue to play a major role in controlling the ever-increasing levels of Phoma terrestris and maintaining profitability in onion production in Georgia.

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In 1998–99, experiments were conducted to evaluate current fertility practices with plant-bed onions. In experiments in 1998 and 1999, a factorial experiment of preplant 5–10–15 and CaNO3 sidedressing indicated that CaNO3 had a significant effect on foliar nitrogen levels. CaNO3 also had an effect on stand count in 1998, but not in 1999. CaNO3 and 5–10–15 had an effect on plant height in both 1998 and 1999, with an interaction between 5–10–15 and CaNO3 in 1999. In 1999, transplants were also evaluated on an acceptability scale with 5–10–15 and CaNO3 rates resulting in significant differences in transplant acceptability. Postseedling applications of high phosphorus fertilizer were also evaluated. There were no consistent improvements in transplant growth with applications of high phosphorus fertilizers, such as 18–46–0 or 10–34–0, either on soils with very high residual phosphorus (242 lb/acre) or medium residual phosphorus (50 lb/acre). In addition, variety was not a factor in these responses.

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This is a compilation of several studies that were performed to address specific grower concerns or questions about onion fertilization, to assess onion fertility, to make adjustments in soil test recommendations, and to test specific fertilizers for clients covering the 1999–2000 to 2004–2005 seasons. The synthesis of these studies was to evaluate levels of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) fertilizers and their effect on yield, graded yield, and leaf tissue nutrient status in short-day onions over 6 years. In addition, various fertilizers were evaluated for their effect on these parameters. There was a significant increasing quadratic effect on yield from increasing N fertilizer from 0 to 336 kg·ha−1 with an R2 of 0.926. Maximum calculated yield was at 263 kg·ha−1 N fertilizer; however, the yield at this rate did not differ, based on a Fisher's least significant difference (P ≤ 0.05), from our current recommendations of 140 to 168 kg·ha−1 N. Jumbo (7.6 cm or greater) yield performed in a similar fashion. Phosphorus fertilizer rates from 0 to 147 kg·ha−1 had no effect on total yield, but did affect jumbo yields, which decreased linearly with an R2 of 0.322. Evaluations of P fertilizer in the 2001–2002 and 2002–2003 seasons only, when the exact same P fertilizer rates were used, showed a decreasing quadratic effect for jumbo yields with the lowest jumbo yields at 83 kg·ha−1 P fertilizer and jumbo yields increasing with 115 and 147 kg·ha−1 P fertilizer rates. Potassium fertilizer rates from 0 to 177 kg·ha−1 had a quadratic affect on total yield, with the highest yield of 52,361 kg·ha−1 with 84 kg·ha−1 K fertilizer rate. As would be expected, N and P fertilizer rates affected leaf tissue N and P levels, respectively. In addition, N fertilizer rates affected leaf tissue calcium (Ca) and sulfur levels. Potassium fertilizer rates had a significant linear effect on leaf tissue K 3 of 6 years. In addition, K fertilizer rates had a significant effect on leaf tissue P levels. Several fertilizers, including Ca(NO3)2 and NH4NO3, along with complete fertilizers and liquid fertilizers, were used as part of a complete fertilizer program and showed no differences for total yield or jumbo yield 4 of 5 years of evaluation when applied to supply the same amount of N fertilizer. Based on the results of this study, soil test P and K recommendations for onions in Georgia have been cut 25% to 50% across the range of soil test levels.

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Beginning in 2001 the Georgia Department of Agriculture mandated testing of new and existing Vidalia onion varieties under the supervision of the University of Georgia. This was prompted by the introduction of early maturing Japanese overwintering varieties, which were perceived to be more pungent than traditional varieties grown in the Vidalia district. The testing primarily focused on flavor and pungency (pyruvate analysis) to determine suitability as a Vidalia onion variety. Our testing compared varieties to an industry standard, initially variety Granex 33, which was later switched to `Savannah Sweet'. In almost all flavor and pungency tests differences were detected among the varieties, however, since the chosen standard variety usually fell within the middle of the tested range, there was no consistent rejection of a variety. If a different statistical approach had been used it would have been possible to reject several varieties over the course of testing. Using multiple comparison with the best (MCB), a modification of Dunnett's test where the best performing variety for a particular parameter becomes the standard, several varieties would have been excluded, but not all of the early Japanese overwintering types. Finally, in 2005 a consumer acceptance study was conducted with 30 consumers evaluating each of 49 varieties resulted in an LSD (5%) with no differences between the top 38 entries, which included several of the Japanese overwinter types. It is becoming clear that concerns over flavor with these early varieties are unfounded.

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This study was undertaken to evaluate the effect of harvest date on yield and storage of short-day onions in controlled-atmosphere (CA) storage conditions. In general, harvest yields increased with later harvest dates. Yields of jumbo (>7.6 cm) onions primarily showed a quadratic or cubic response to harvest date, first increasing and then showing diminished or reduced marginal yields. Medium (>5.1 to ≤7.6 cm) onions generally showed diminished yield with later harvests as jumbos increased. Neither days from transplanting to harvest nor calculated degree days were reliable at predicting harvest date for a particular cultivar. Cultivars (early, midseason, and late maturing) performed consistently within their harvest class compared to other cultivars for a specific year, but could not be used to accurately predict a specific number of days to harvest over all years. Only three of the eight statistical assessments of percent marketable onions after CA storage were significant with two showing a linear increase with later harvest date and one showing a cubic trend, first increasing, then decreasing, and finally increasing again based on harvest date.

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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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Onions (Allium cepa) in southeastern Georgia are almost exclusively transplanted, with the associated high costs and labor requirements. This study was undertaken to evaluate direct-seeded onions as an alternative production method. This study evaluates variety, sowing date, and fertility on direct seeding short-day onions in southeastern Georgia. Sowing dates, early or mid-October (5 and 15 Oct. 2001 and 7 and 21 Oct. 2002), did not affect total, jumbo (≥3 inches diameter), or medium (≥2 inches and <3 inches diameter) yields. Late October sowing (29 Oct. 2001) did not produce sufficient stand or yield to warrant harvesting. Variety also had no affect on yield of direct-seeded onions. Seedstems (flowering), an undesirable characteristic, was significantly greater with the early October sowing date across all varieties compared with the mid- or late- October sowing dates. Neither variety nor sowing date significantly affected plant stand or plant spacing. Fertilization treatments of 150 or 195 lb/acre nitrogen (N) with various application timings and fertilizer sources did not affect total or medium yields. Jumbo yield was affected in only 1 year with calcium nitrate as the primary N source at 195 lb/acre total N having the highest yield, but did not differ from some treatments at 150 lb/acre N. In addition, fertilization treatments did not affect seedstems, plant stand, or plant spacing. Based on this study, we are recommending that growers should direct seed onions in southeastern Georgia in mid-October, plus or minus 1 week depending on field accessibility. In addition, current fertilizer recommendations for transplanted dry bulb onions should be followed, which includes 150 lb/acre N. This eliminates all of the cost and resources required for transplant production.

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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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Preplant levels of 5N-4.4P-12.4K (-5S or -9S) and sidedress applications of CaNO3 were evaluated in onion (Allium cepa L.). In addition, high phosphorus fertilizers 18N-20.1P-0K (diammonium phosphate) and liquid 10N-14.8P-0K were evaluated on sites with and without high residual phosphorus levels as well as their interaction with onion cultivars. Sidedress applications of CaNO3 had a significant effect on plant height and an interaction with preplant 5N-4.4P-12.4K fertilizer. There was a linear increase in plant height with increasing applications of 5N-4.4P-12.4K from 0 to 1569 kg·ha-1 with the CaNO3 applications. Neither 5N-4.4P-12.4K nor CaNO3 applications affected stand count. 5N-4.4P-12.4K fertilizer had significant linear effects on tissue potassium and sulfur. Tissue nitrogen and calcium increased with CaNO3 applications while phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur decreased. CaNO3 also had a positive effect on suitability for transplanting. There was an interaction effect between 5N-4.4P-12.4K and CaNO3 for tissue phosphorus levels. There was a linear decrease in tissue phosphorus levels with increasing amounts of 5N-4.4P-12.4K fertilizer with the sidedress CaNO3 treatments. High phosphorus fertilizers applied directly after seeding had no effect on plant stand or plant height either on soils with or without high residual phosphorus in 1998. In 1999, 10N-14.8P-0K fertilizer had a significant effect on plant height while 18N-20.1P-0K did not. Based on this study, we conclude that additional applications of high phosphorus fertilizers applied post seeding are not required due to the relatively warm conditions found in southeast Georgia in September. There were differences between cultivars, but cultivar× high phosphorus fertilizer interactions were nonsignificant.

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