One of the coldest winters in decades has meant produce grown for this year's seed onion demonstration day matured almost three weeks later than the 10-year average.
Bruce Napier, who collates the data for the annual event held on 14 November, run by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), revealed that early-maturing varieties generally fared best in this year's trial.
"We have had one of the coldest winters in decades so plants just sat in the ground," he said. "Two months of nice, high summer temperatures still did not help the crops to catch up by a huge amount, so this season favoured the early material."
Napier told Grower that the industry standard Hybing, bred by Bejo and supplied by Elsoms Seeds, was the highest-yielding brown variety in the main trial.
Some 20 commercially available brown and seven red varieties were put to the test in the main trial. Hybing was one of the earliest varieties. Bejo's Red Light had a good yield that was also significantly above average in the main trial. It also matured a week earlier than any of the other plants.
Napier revealed that seven browns and two reds were evaluated in the preliminary trial, which is often the first time that new material is shown to the public. "Varieties that yielded well in the brown (preliminary) trial were the earliest of the browns - Hypark (Bejo), Hybound (Bejo) and Wellington (Syngenta)."
In the reds, Allium Farms' AF222 yielded well in the preliminary trial, as did Seminis's SV9249 ND, which is late maturing. Napier also said Allium Farm's AF 1.11, a new red variety, could have a promising future. "This was about two weeks earlier than the other reds. Its unusual for reds to be early maturing."
He added that Nickerson Zwaan's brown Santero scored highly in terms of mildew resistance. But this variety is still sold primarily to the organic market.
"We are still waiting for a Santero equivalent to come through for red varieties," he said. "I imagine seed companies are working very hard on it, so watch this space."
Green harvest - Onions crops taken up early
Many of this season's onion crops are being harvested while they are still green and before they are fully matured, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany's Bruce Napier has revealed. Growers are getting them out of the ground before the crop gets too wet.
"People may be having an issue with harvesting," Napier suggested. "They need to aggressively dry and cut the crops to stop them from sprouting and regrowing. Some people have still got stuff in the ground now - 10 per cent of material is still left in the field."