Excellent growing weather in May has helped improve the outlook for Vidalia onions, which have been hit hard by seed stem problems.
“The weather’s been terrific the last three weeks — most everyone’s had a good harvest,” Delbert Bland, president of Glennville, Ga.-based Bland Farms, said May 23. “We had a problem this year, no doubt, but we’ve been blessed the second half of the season.”
No official crop estimates have been made, but Bland estimates the Vidalia industry could ship up to 4.5 million boxes this season, down from the typical 5 million boxes.
Seed stem winded up affecting, on average, about 30% to 40% of Vidalia crops this year, said John Shuman, president of Reidsville, Ga.-based Shuman Produce.
But Mother Nature has spent most of May making amends.
“On May 5, it stopped raining, it got warm, it got dry, and the onions responded very nicely,” Shuman said. “The discoloration problems we had in April went away, and we’re putting a lot more in storage then we thought we would.”
Fields expected to yield about 700 or 800 50-pound bags per acre are instead producing 1,150 bags, said John Williams, sales manager for Lyons, Ga.-based L.G. Herndon Jr. Farms Inc.
The company lost about half of its early crop to seed stem, but volumes in the second half of the season should be 125% of what was forecast.
“The back half of the crop is looking very good,” Williams said.
Herndon’s 200,000-bushel storage space is full, Williams said. The company will have to rent storage space to store onions that haven’t been harvested yet.
Thanks to higher than expected yields in the middle and late parts of the season, Shuman expects stable markets through the Vidalia storage season.
Bland Farms expects to have enough storage onions to meet demand this summer.
“We’re very pleased with what we’ve put in for the rest of the summer,” Bland said. “Quality has been excellent.”
L.G. Herndon Jr. Farms expects to have onions well into September, Williams said.
Staff Writer Coral Beach contributed to this article.