Good onion yields expected despite weather, virus

08/23/2013 05:29:00 PM
Coral Beach

Freshly harvested yellow onionsCourtesy USDAThe 2013 onion crop from Idaho and eastern Oregon is expected to mirror the 2012 crop in volume and quality, despite a hot summer and isolated virus issues.The region is in the midst of what could be the second-hottest summer on record, and yellow iris virus is thriving in isolated areas, but onion growers in Idaho and eastern Oregon report the 2013 crop overall should be very similar to 2012’s in both quantity and quality.

Grower members of the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee said in mid-August that harvest was just beginning in some areas, with digging expected to hit full swing about a week after Labor Day.

“We have experienced some hot weather. It’s a variable crop of average size and shows limited signs of the weather. At this point the volume is undetermined, but the quality of the crop is good,” said Candi Fitch, executive director of the Parma, Idaho-based committee.

On schedule

The Idaho-eastern Oregon onion deal traditionally follows those in New Mexico and California, and the crop appears to be on schedule with that pattern this year, growers said. The region planted “a tad more” acres this year, said Chris Woo, sales manager for Ontario, Ore.-based Murakami Produce, which packs onions for Potandon Produce, Idaho Falls, Idaho.

There are about 21,000 acres of onions in the region, which traditionally produces about 1 billion pounds annually, according to the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee’s website. In terms of onion growing regions, the Treasure Valley area is the largest single producing region in the country, responsible for about 25% of the onions consumed in the U.S., according to the committee information.

Chris Wada, director of marketing and exports for Wada Farms Marketing LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho, said as of Aug. 19 the onions were looking similar to the 2012 crop in terms of quantity and quality.

click image to zoomWissel Farm 2013 onion harvestCourtesy Snake River ProduceThe 2013 onion harvest at Wissel Farms, Nampa, Idaho, was off to a strong start in mid-August.Paul Skeen, president of the Malheur County (Oregon) Onion Growers Association, agreed overall quantity and quality will likely be as good as last year, but he said sizing may not be.

“We’re on our way to having the second hottest summer on record,” Skeen said. “We’ve got good quality, but the heat means we probably won’t have as many supers and colossals.”

Yellow virus threatens crop

Skeen, owner of Skeen Farms Inc., Nyssa, Ore., said growers in the Malheur region have told him that the yellow iris virus is hitting hard in some isolated spots.

He said it’s too early to tell how severe losses could be, but said he expects at least 10% of the crop to fall victim to the virus, which is carried by thrips.

Kay Riley, general manager of Snake River Produce, Nyssa, Ore., said the onion thrips are quite prolific in some fields.

“Some people have told me they will have significant losses,” Riley said. “Some fields will be a complete bust.”

Riley said he expected to begin packing in late August and continue through mid-October as usual.



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