Grower co-operative Bedfordshire Growers launched a new product at Fruit Logistica last week: dried sweet red onions.
Managing Director Stephen Hedderly told reporters that the product was produced simply by dehydrating the company’s sweet red onions without any additives and that they could be used as a healthy alternative to fried onions or even as a snack instead of crisps or nuts.
“We have customers all over the world but there is always a grade of product that people don’t want, and this is a way of using that product,” he said. “We launched the red sweet onions two years ago on Valentine’s Day, and we have overachieved on sales. We’re very pleased.”
Photo Caption: Sweet red onions were first introduced by Bedfordshire Growers two years ago.
Photo Credit: Bedfordshire Growers.
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With the loss of the herbicide Totril on 31 August 2016 many onion growers are considering using bromoxynil which has recently been approved for use in the crop. However Andy Richardson of Allium & Brassica Agronomy warned that it could not be used as a straight replacement.
Growers need to consider the different label recommendations of the two products containing bromoxynil (Butryflow SC and Buctril EC) he warned. One reason is that due to the higher risk of crop scorch compared to ioxynil (Totril) and its SC formulation, Butraflow cannot be applied to set crops. It also has a timing restriction and can only be used between 1 May and 30 September, so may be unsuitable for early crops. Buctril currently has no such restrictions.
“We’ve been looking at both products and we’ve been looking at Buctril since 2010. Based on our trials Buctril may be more useful to onion growers than Butryflow),” explained Andy.
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An AHDB Horticulture-funded study into reducing the cost of downy mildew control in onion crops has resulted in a new diagnostic test which will be available for growers to trial next year.
Dr Alison Wakeham of the University of Worcester explained the scientific work which has gone into developing the MILIONCAST (MILDEW on ONION FIRECAST) model which provides predictions of downy mildew sporulation based on environmental conditions.
However this cannot determine the disease is actually present, which is where the new hand held test comes in. An in-field air sampling device is collected and, “A five minute stick test shows if the disease is present in the [air]sample and at what level. As the level of the disease increases the strength of the line depletes,” explained Dr Wakeham.
In order to prevent different interpretations of the result due to differences in people’s eyesight a reader is used, although phone apps to read similar tests are becoming available. In trials using the test and the forecast model reduced the number of spays by half while maintaining control levels of the disease.
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According to reports the UK onion harvest has been around a week later than average, with August drilled crops still being lifted into early September.
Jayne Dyas from British Growers told reporters that it was still too early to confirm crop volumes as grading wasn’t complete and many crops still had to reach stores and be cured, but at the end of August the latest estimate of UK production was 466,000 tonnes.
The cool spring resulted in some crops maturing later than normal, although the dry spell from June to July, and later cooler, wetter weather had helped bulbs to bulk up increasing overall yields from earlier estimates. Bulb size has been described as variable to date and the quality is currently unknown until crops are safely dried and in store.
According to Jayne, demand this year has been static, but over the last few years consumption of onions has increased in the UK.
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