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Vidalia onions: Alternative to hand-transplanting proven effective
Date:12/29/2008

STATESBORO, GAGrowers in southeastern Georgia have the perfect combination of climate and soil to produce some of the world's best onions: the famous Vidalia sweet onions. Prized for their mild taste and sweetness, Vidalia onions are shipped throughout North America for use in recipes and relishes.

Onion producers in the Vidalia region have traditionally used transplants to produce dry bulb onions. Transplants are grown on farms in high-density plantings, then pulled and transplanted to their final spacing. The delicate nature of Vidalia onions requires that they be transplanted and harvested by hand. In fact, the entire Vidalia onion crop of 12,000 to 14,000 acres is hand-transplanted over an 8- to 9-week period.

This practice of hand transplanting relies heavily on a migrant labor force and is significantly more expensive than machine transplanting. Although field workers have historically been available during the onion season, producers in the area are concerned about the possibility of a dwindling labor force in the future.

George E. Boyhan, an Extension Horticulturist at the University of Georgia's Southeast Georgia Extension Center, and colleagues Juan Carlos Diaz-Perez, Chris Hopkins, Reid L. Torrance, and C. Randy Hill, published a study in the July 2008 issue of HortTechnology that evaluated direct-seeded onions as an alternative production method. This study evaluated variety, sowing date, and fertility on direct seeding short-day onions in southeastern Georgia. Boyhan explained the impetus behind his research; "Because of the higher cost of transplanting compared with direct seeding, this study was undertaken to evaluate effects of sowing date, variety, and fertility on direct seeding short-day onions in southeastern Georgia." Boyhan added that the research was also aimed at finding ways to lower production costs for growers.

The study results showed that sowing dates in early or mid-October did not affect
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Contact: Michael W. Neff
mwneff@ashs.org
703-836-4606
American Society for Horticultural Science
Source:Eurekalert

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