Vidalia growers predict significant crop losses

04/19/2013 03:21:00 PM
Coral Beach

click image to zoomVidalia onion fieldCoral BeachIn mid-March this Vidalia onion field had dried from excessive February rains, allowing onions to break through the topsoil as they headed into their final growing weeks. However, by mid-April growers were predicting significant losses because of abnormally high percentages of seed stems that bolted just before the April 15 shipping start.Mother Nature has struck Vidalia onion growers a heavy blow for the second straight year, just as their harvest season is beginning, threatening to significantly reduce the 2013 crop.

Unusual amounts of rain at the wrong times in February and March and unseasonably cold temperatures in late March and early April are taking their toll. Onion growth slowed just as growers were preparing to begin harvesting the first week of April, which meant a very slow start to the season, according to a news release April 19 from the Vidalia Onion Committee.

Growers started reporting an additional problem April 15, which was the official shipping start date set by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Many onion fields began showing abnormally high amounts of seed stems, also known as bolters or flower stalks.

Vidalia Onion Committee“Monday morning (April 15) e-mails and phone calls began pouring in about widespread, high percentages of seed stems that were noticed late last week and through the weekend across the production area,” the onion committee release said.

Multiple stress factors, including the excessive rain and cool temperatures, can impact growing onions and lead to seed stems. When the plants “bolt” and shoot up the stalks with flowers that later generate seeds, the onion core is sucked dry and becomes hollow.

However, retailers and consumers should not worry about the quality of Vidalia onions that are shipped this season, the release said, because the seed stem onions are easily recognized during the harvesting and sorting processes and are discarded.

The onion committee did not provide an estimate of how much of this year’s crop is lost to seed stems.

For the 2012 season, about a third of the total Vidalia crop was lost to a late-season outbreak of downy mildew. The disease didn’t show up until just before harvest last year and caught many growers by surprise.

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Marvin Greenberg    
Toronto, Ontario  |  April, 22, 2013 at 09:21 AM

As a leading cheerleader for the "Vidalia" which are tough to find here in Toronto I am so sorry to hear of the groweres hit again. The other "sweet pretenders" from Mexico & Texas are nice ok but they are not "Vidalia!

Dallas, TX  |  April, 22, 2013 at 10:10 AM

Sad to read that the unusual cold affected onions that far east. I suspect that all domestic onions will be affected. (My Red Candys are showing scapes here in Dallas). But I am doubly saddened to read that processors DISCARD bolting onions. They are not useless! Just not good for storage. Can't they be sold for processing? freezing? The dried onion market? But...Discarded? I hope that is not true. Thanks.

Peru  |  April, 22, 2013 at 11:16 AM

The peruvian sweet onions the best.

Martha Evans    
Wendell,Nc  |  April, 22, 2013 at 03:21 PM

I am very sorry to hear about the Vidalia Onions I am a trucking driver took a load of onions to Pa.last week was hoping to reload sat. but did not happen to much rain.Today is monday still no load.I will pray it gets better for the growers and truckers.

Dallas, TX  |  April, 22, 2013 at 04:46 PM

God Bless you and all our trucker brothers and sisters out there. America couldn't function without you. Fingers crossed that you get work soon.

pgh. Pa.  |  April, 23, 2013 at 07:37 AM

Walla Walla Sweet Onions are the best by far.......

Cary, NC  |  April, 23, 2013 at 09:07 AM

I bought some Vidalia onions at the Foodlion store in Morrisville, NC on Sunday - 4/21/13. They are soft and tasteless. It prompted me to check for news on the internet and I found this article. I'm afraid mine escaped the grading process, unless they are year-old onions that Foodlion has kept in cold storage. If the bag I bought Sunday is indicative of Vidalias being shipped this year, Vidalia growers are really up against it to uphold their reputation. I understand that weather doesn't always cooperate and that it's something we all have to live with. I'll be standing in line again next year when the first Vidalias arrive in our store!

Lyons GA  |  April, 23, 2013 at 02:04 PM

Milton, A LOT of the farms started the harvest too early which can cause those problems you mentioned. Don't judge too soon. We are a big Vidalia onion farm and we are just now harvesting.

Cary, NC  |  April, 24, 2013 at 04:45 PM

Thank you Melissa. I bought some loose ones at another store today and they are excellant. The poor ones I bought Sunday were bagged. They were grown/produced by Shuman Produce of Reidsville.

Fred Martin    
Atlanta, GA  |  April, 25, 2013 at 05:12 PM

I am a loyal vidalia fan but those onions coming out of Texas now have us licked.... Thank god Vidalia has a great marketing strategy!!

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