VIDALIA, Ga. — Recent sub-freezing temperatures across central Georgia disrupted the growth of Vidalia onions and could result in a stand loss of 25% or more of this year’s crop.
Many of the onions that do grow to maturity will likely be slightly smaller than usual, with more medium-sized Vidalias expected, said Bob Stafford, manager of the Vidalia Onion Business Council. Growers are scheduled to start shipping the onions on April 21.
“We will still have good promotable volumes, though,” Stafford said March 4. “There will probably be plenty of jumbos, but we’ll have more mediums than usual.”
Stafford said growers shipped about 5.6 million 40-pound units of Vidalia sweet onions in the 2013 season. Last year’s yield wasn’t as big as it could have been, though, because of too much rain in early March and a seed stem bolt shortly after harvest began combined for an overall loss of about a third of the crop.
G&R Farms co-owner Robert Dasher, who’s been growing the sweet onions for more than 50 years, said his fields had between 20% to 25% stand loss as of the first week of March. He said onions that had already started putting out roots were particularly susceptible to the freeze because they have a higher moisture content.
“I went up to the livestock market today and was looking at the fields along the way and it looks like some people may have a loss of 40% to 50%,” Dasher said March 4. “Right now I’d estimate the overall loss across the entire growing region at 25% to 30%.”
Dasher agrees with Stafford’s assessment that there should be enough Vidalias to meet demand, if Mother Nature doesn’t step in again.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Dasher said. “If downy mildew shows up or we get another bolt it could be devastating.”
This is the third consecutive year that Vidalia onion growers have struggled to reach top yields. In 2012 a late outbreak of downy mildew caught many growers off guard and took out about a third of the crop.