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Onions

Onions Onions are one of the most important vegetable crops in New York State with annual sales of approximately $52 million. New York accounts for 97% of the onion production in the North Eastern United States and ranks sixth in the nation. Approximately 12,000 acres of yellow pungent cooking onions are grown from direct seed, predominantly on organically rich muck soils. This crop is stored and marketed until April. Sweet and red varieties are also grown, mostly from transplants. Hundreds of small-scale diversified farms grow onions intensively on plastic beds on less than an acre. These onions can grow very large and be lucrative in the market place where they are sold through produce auctions, farmer's markets, roadside stands and CSAs.

Continued intensive production of onions in New York has led to an array of perennial pest challenges, as well as the introduction of new pests, so that management of the onion complex in New York requires a very strategic research-based approach. Cornell Cooperative Educators and Cornell faculty work together to conduct research on many aspects of onion production in the state. Below you will find educational information and results of our research trials.

Relevant Event

2018 Empire State Producers EXPO

Event Offers DEC Credits

January 16 - January 18, 2018
1.25 hr sessions throughout each day
Syracuse, NY

Complete Onions Content

Cornell Onion Fungicide "Cheat Sheet" for Leaf Diseases, 2017

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: July 5, 2017
Cornell Onion Fungicide

This chart provides information on fungicides available for use in New York in 2017 in onions for control of leaf diseases including Botrytis Leaf Blight (BLB), Purple Blotch (PB), Stemphylium Leaf Blight (SLB), and Downy Mildew (DM). This year, more fungicides and detailed efficacy ratings are provided per BLB, SLB, and DM from Cornell trials. Rotation restrictions and maximum allowable per season are provided. 

Cold Storage Chart and Reference Guide to Commercial Vegetable Storage

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: December 13, 2016
Cold Storage Chart and Reference Guide to Commercial Vegetable Storage

Commercial vegetable growers will find a Cold Storage Chart by crop type with temperature and relative humidity recommendations. The maximum number of weeks that the crop can be held under ideal conditions is provided as well.

Adapted from the USDA Bulletin #66, The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and Nursery Stock, growers will find information on quality, grading, sizes, and packaging, chilling and storage, and post-harvest pathology of vegetables.

Crop Cooling and Storage

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: September 29, 2016
Crop Cooling and Storage

On-Farm Cold Storage of Fall-Harvested Fruit and Vegetable Crops is an in-depth look at the planning and designing cooling for late season and winter storage but it also is useful for general cooling as well. This was written by Scott Sanford, Distinguished Outreach Specialist, UW-Extension, and John Hendrickson, Outreach Program Manager, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

2015 Stemphylium Leaf Blight Fungicide Trial Summary

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: July 6, 2016
2015 Stemphylium Leaf Blight Fungicide Trial Summary

In 2015 we learned that Stemphylium leaf blight (SLB) is everywhere and that it appears to have displaced Purple Blotch in conventional muck onion production as the main target spot disease of concern. SLB is characterized by target-spot lesions that are usually tan in color, but can also be purplish, reddish or blackish. Sometimes only a few large lesions with concentric rings occur while other times several smaller lesions occur. Regardless of lesion type, leaf dieback can be excessive which in severe cases can result in premature plant mortality (i.e. onions dying standing up).

Scouting for Onion Thrips

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: June 8, 2016
Scouting for Onion Thrips

To find the first thrips of the season, look deep into the leaf axils. The adults are brown and up to 2 mm in length, while the nymphs are yellow and 0.5 to 1.2 mm in length. Inspect 15 to 20 plants and count the total number of OT per plant and divide by the average number of leaves per plant to get the number of OT per leaf. Thrips feeding causes silvery streaking along the leaves. If you can already see thrips feeding damage that is also a good indication that it is time to spray. If there is a lot of feeding damage, than you likely missed a timely first spray.

2014 Trial Results: Stemphylium leaf blight and downy mildew in onion

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: October 6, 2015
2014 Trial Results: Stemphylium leaf blight and downy mildew in onion

Results summary for on-farm small-plot research trial evaluating the efficacy of over 20 fungicides for their control of Stemphylium leaf blight and downy mildew in onion.

Strategic Management of Onion Thrips in Onions, July 2015

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: July 15, 2015
Strategic Management of Onion Thrips in Onions, July 2015

Following is a strategic plan for managing onion thrips in onions, which includes a strategic order of applying the different insecticides, as well as how to make critical deviations from this order based on pest pressure, relative performance of different products and time to harvest.

Video: New York State Produce Auctions

Last Modified: April 30, 2015
Video: New York State Produce Auctions

Currently, there are 6 produce auctions in New York State. These auctions are aggregation points that allow local farmers to sell their produce in wholesale lots to buyers from across the region. To document the economic impact of produce auctions on agriculture, local businesses, family farms, and produce buyers, the Cornell Vegetable Program worked with HarvestNY to survey top sellers and buyers.

A new Cornell Vegetable Program video shares general information about produce auctions, how buyers and sellers use the auctions to expand their businesses, and how local communities benefit from them.

Fall Chemical Burn Down of Perennial Sow Thistle in Onions, 2013 Trial Results

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: March 25, 2014
Fall Chemical Burn Down of Perennial Sow Thistle in Onions, 2013 Trial Results

Perennial sow thistle has increased in economic importance and has become a serious weed problem for muck onion growers in the Western region on New York. In this project, we investigated fall chemical burn down strategies to manage this weed, as well as the use of a synthetic auxin growth regulator type herbicide, trade name Stinger to manage this weed in-season within an onion crop. Crop tolerance to Stinger was also studied. 

Following is the first of three reports from 2013 Trials: Report No. 1. Simulated Fall Chemical Burn Down of Perennial Sow Thistle

In-Season Management of Perennial Sow Thistle in Onions, 2013 Trial Results

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: March 25, 2014
In-Season Management of Perennial Sow Thistle in Onions, 2013 Trial Results

Perennial sow thistle has increased in economic importance and has become a serious weed problem for muck onion growers in the Western region on New York. In this project, we investigated fall chemical burn down strategies to manage this weed, as well as the use of a synthetic auxin growth regulator type herbicide, trade name Stinger to manage this weed in-season within an onion crop. Crop tolerance to Stinger was also studied.

Following is the FINAL report and the first of 3 complimentary power point presentation files.

In-Season Management of Perennial Sow Thistle, 2013 Results (Part II)

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: March 25, 2014
In-Season Management of Perennial Sow Thistle, 2013 Results (Part II)

Perennial sow thistle has increased in economic importance and has become a serious weed problem for muck onion growers in the Western region on New York. In this project, we investigated fall chemical burn down strategies to manage this weed, as well as the use of a synthetic auxin growth regulator type herbicide, trade name Stinger to manage this weed in-season within an onion crop. Crop tolerance to Stinger was also studied.

Following are the second and third parts of the complimentary power point presentation.

Onion Crop Tolerance to Stinger (a.i. clopyralid)

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: March 25, 2014
Onion Crop Tolerance to Stinger (a.i. clopyralid)

Perennial sow thistle has increased in economic importance and has become a serious weed problem for muck onion growers in the Western region on New York. In this project, we investigated fall chemical burn down strategies to manage this weed, as well as the use of a synthetic auxin growth regulator type herbicide, trade name Stinger to manage this weed in-season within an onion crop. Crop tolerance to Stinger was also studied.

Following is the final report:
Report No. 3: Onion Crop Tolerance to Stinger (a.i. clopyralid)

Relative Performance of Onion Fungicides

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: March 17, 2014
Relative Performance of Onion Fungicides

Botrytis leaf blight (BLB) and purple blotch (PB) are two of the most common and important leaf diseases of onions in New York. BLB is favored by cool and wet conditions, optimum: 59-65 degrees F + 12 hours leaf wetness, infection greatly reduced above 81 degrees F. PB is favored by warmer and humid conditions, optimum: 77 degrees F + 90% RH, minimum 55 degrees F; maximum 97 degrees F. Several fungicides are labeled in New York for control of both of these diseases.

To determine which fungicides were best for controlling BLB and PB in New York, head to head comparisons of the different fungicides were evaluated in four on-farm small plot trials, in Elba (2006), Sodus in (2007), Pembroke (2008) and Linwood (2008). Seven to eight weekly fungicide sprays were made per season starting in mid- to late-June using a back pack sprayer. Quantitative evaluations were made including number of BLB and PB lesions per plant, % leaf dieback, plant health ratings, yield and grade.

Responding to Hailstorms

Crystal Stewart, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture

Last Modified: June 26, 2013
Responding to Hailstorms

While no one wants to think about the possibility of hail hitting their beautiful crops just as they start to respond to the heat and take off, the likelihood that we will see more hail seems pretty high. So let's talk about it.

Role of Adjuvants in Bacterial Diseases of Onions

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: February 26, 2013
Role of Adjuvants in Bacterial Diseases of Onions

Bacterial diseases of onions have become an increasing threat to the sustainability of the New York onion industry with losses of 40% or more occurring in some lots in some years. Recently, a New York onion grower suggested that the penetrating surfactants that Cornell entomologists strongly recommend to improve efficacy of insecticides for onion thrips control might be allowing for easy entry of bacterial pathogens into the leaves, thus increasing incidence of bacterial bulb decay.  In this study we applied adjuvants LI700, MSO, Kinetic, Dyne-Amic and HiWett in combination with bacterial pathogens of onions to onion plants to see if higher levels of bacterial bulb decay resulted with adjuvants compared to water plus bacteria.  Preliminary results indicated that a single application of adjuvant plus bacterial had no effect on bacterial bulb decay.  The effect of multiple applications of adjuvants on bacterial bulb decay warrants further research.

Spring Application of Winter Rye Grain for Weed Control in Summer Vegetables

Judson Reid, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: January 22, 2013
Spring Application of Winter Rye Grain for Weed Control in Summer Vegetables

Plasticulture production of vegetables has been widely adopted in the Northeast providing farmers with in-row weed control, soil moisture regulation and season extension. However, the bare row middles in this system require herbicide or cultivation which increase environmental impacts; impairing water quality, decreasing soil organic matter levels and increasing labor inputs. In 2012 the Cornell Vegetable Program was awarded a NESARE grant to evaluate a new use of cover crops, by sowing winter rye between plastic-mulched beds of tomatoes and onions on two cooperating farms. Both farms provided cultivation and herbicide treatments to enable us to compare weed control, yield and pest and disease impacts.

2009 Elba Muck Soil Nutrient Survey Summary

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: January 11, 2013
2009 Elba Muck Soil Nutrient Survey Summary

This is a three-part newsletter article series that describes the general nutrient status of the Elba muck land, based on a survey conducted in spring of 2009. In response to a finding that the Elba muck land was a major source of pollution into its water shed, the Oak Orchard, delivering excessive amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen, free soil nutrient tests were conducted for Elba muck land growers in hopes that they would apply nutrients according to the needs of their soils.  In total, soil samples were taken from 21 fields or blocks which were approximately 10, 25, 50 or 100 acres in size, and often consisted of several fields. Two to 20 sub-samples were taken per field/block for a total of 160 sub-samples. Samples were analyzed by the Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory (CNAL). 

All of these soil test results were summarized by Christy Hoepting, Onion Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension Vegetable Program (CCE-VP). In addition to phosphorus and nitrogen, all information from the soil tests including organic matter, pH, potassium and micronutrients, were reviewed and opportunities for improved nutrient management for onion production suggested. It is hoped that this will mark the beginning of collaborative efforts among onion growers, CCE-VP, SWCDs and EPA to reduce nutrient loading into the Oak Orchard and other water sheds, but also to improve onion yield and profitability by optimizing nutrient management. 

Exploring the Relationship Between Nitrogen, Plant Spacing and Bacterial Disease

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: January 8, 2013
Exploring the Relationship Between Nitrogen, Plant Spacing and Bacterial Disease

It is important to emphasize that "exploring" is in the present tense. In New York, we are just beginning to delve into the fascinating relationship between nitrogen, plant spacing and bacterial diseases of onions. Our preliminary results suggest that reduced soil nitrogen and tighter plant spacing results in less bacterial decay. In this article, we report preliminary findings from exploratory studies and the observations that lead to these trials. We stress that we are not making recommendations at this time. However, we are hopeful that further studies will lead to specific recommendations.

Preventing Muck Soil Erosion by Reducing Tillage in Onion Production

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: January 7, 2013
Preventing Muck Soil Erosion by Reducing Tillage in Onion Production

The problem with using conventional tillage practices for onion production on muck soils is that it results in the subsidence of muck via wind and water erosion and oxidation of organic matter at a rate of one foot every 10 years, which is not sustainable for preserving these non-renewable natural  resources for long-term productivity. Onions are one of the most valuable vegetable crops produced in New York State with the majority of the 13,000 acres being grown on muck soil. Producing onions using conventional tillage practices results in degradation of soil health and increased subsidence.

O-zone Injury on Vegetables

Crystal Stewart, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture

Last Modified: August 22, 2012
O-zone Injury on Vegetables

Hot, humid weather with stagnant air masses may lead to ozone damage on crops. Ozone warnings were recently issued for much of New York. These warnings are intended for people with respiratory problems and let them know they should limit their outdoor activity and try to stay as much as possible in air-conditioned locations. These warning are also a good indicator that ozone damage may occur in plants.

Leek Moth Control and Information

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: May 24, 2012
Leek Moth Control and Information

Leek Moth was detected in four home gardens in Plattsburg, NY in 2009. It was first detected in Ontario, Canada in 1997 where it has become problematic especially to small-scale, organic growers in eastern Ontario and to commercial producers in western Quebec, who have limited insecticides available to them.

Leek Moth continues its spread to more farms and gardens across the U.S., a new comprehensive website is available to aid in the identification and management of this pest. This Cornell website features maps of the distribution of leek moth, protocols on insect monitoring and identification, best management practices for farms and home gardens, a photo gallery of damage symptoms and a comprehensive resource section.

Visit the Leek Moth website.


Seed Treatments for Onion Maggot Control in Onions

Last Modified: May 24, 2012
Seed Treatments for Onion Maggot Control in Onions

New York onion growers FINALLY have not one, but TWO new seed treatment options for control of onion maggot. Sepresto® was first introduced for the 2011 growing season, but is available only on Nunhem's onion varieties. Also available for the 2012 growing season on all onion varieties is Farmore® FI500. Both of these insecticide seed treatments are only available in packages that also include fungicides. Altogether, NY onion growers now have FIVE insecticides (counting diazinon), labeled for onion maggot control. Of these, 3 are seed treatments; decisions for which one to use must be made when seed orders are placed. In making these decisions, it is important to know the relative efficacy of the insecticides, what diseases the fungicides in the seed treatment packages control and how to extend the useful life of these precious new insecticides. The information that follows addresses these questions and should assist you in making a decision on how to control maggots as well as early season seedling diseases.

Stop the Rot! - Using Cultural Practices to Manage Bacterial Diseases of Onion

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: April 2, 2012
Stop the Rot! - Using Cultural Practices to Manage Bacterial Diseases of Onion

Narrow plant spacing reduced bacterial bulb decay by 53 to 64%
Do you know how easy this is? A simple modification to adjust your planting configuration is all it would take to drastically reduce losses from bacterial bulb decay. Our studies showed that when plant spacing was reduced from 6 or 8 inches to 4 inches with 3 or 4 rows per 3-foot plastic mulch bed (row spacing: 4 rows = 6 inch; 3 rows = 8 inch), this provided 53 to 64% control of bacterial bulb decay at harvest (Table 1). Marketable yield also increased by 1.4 to 2.4 times, representing an increased net economic return of $43 to $258 per 100 feet of bed, due to increased weight of marketable jumbo-sized bulbs (Table 1). We learned that wide plant spacing produces big bushy plants with more leaves, thicker necks, delayed maturity and bigger bulbs. Unfortunately, it was these bigger bulbs that rotted! By narrowing plant spacing, we got fewer colossal-sized bulbs, which we more than made up for by having significantly more healthy jumbo-sized bulbs to market (Table 1).

Alternatives to black plastic reduced bacterial bulb decay by 59 to 75%
This is also a very simple and easy modification for small-scale growers producing onions on plastic mulch to make to their cultural practices that could go a very long way towards reducing bacterial bulb decay. Our studies showed that reflective silver mulch, biodegradable black plastic and bare ground had significantly 1.8 to 2.8 times higher marketable yield than black plastic (Table 2). Reflective silver and biodegradable black plastics had significantly 3.7 and 3.6 times, respectively, higher jumbo weight than black plastic, which resulted in an increased net return of $96 to $215 per 100 feet of bed compared to black plastic (Table 2). All of the alternatives to black plastic had significantly lower soil temperatures compared to the black plastic; we suspect that the higher temperatures of the black plastic are more favorable for development of bacterial diseases.


Fall Application of Dual Magnum for Yellow Nutsedge Control in Muck Onions

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: September 14, 2011
Fall Application of Dual Magnum for Yellow Nutsedge Control in Muck Onions

Yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus L.) pressure is very high in certain muck areas where onions are grown. It appears to have become more of a problem in recent years. Onion growers and chemical company representatives believe that applying Dual Magnum, active ingredient metalochlor, in the fall can significantly reduce nutsedge pressure the following spring. However, weed scientists across the country do not believe that fall applications of metalochlor would have any effect on nutsedge populations the following spring, because the dissipation of metolachlor, is relatively rapid, 4-7 weeks in the northern United States. Dual Magnum is labeled as a fall application in field corn and soybeans only in Iowa, Minnesota, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. For this use, there are restrictions on the label that state the date after which Dual Magnum may be applied, that soil temperature in the top 4 inches must consistently be 55°F and lower, and that tillage following incorporation must not exceed the 2-3 inch depth of incorporation.

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Upcoming Events

NY Veterans in Agriculture Summit

November 29, 2017
8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
Syracuse, NY

Come gather for a day of education and networking. Learn about resources that are available to farmer veterans in New York and participate in educational sessions on topics including animal health, financial management, high tunnels, and business planning. 
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Second Annual Cut Flower Conference

December 1, 2017
8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Rensselaerville, NY

Cornell Cooperative Extension's Capital Area Agriculture and Horticulture Program, announces their upcoming Second Annual Cut Flower Conference. The initial Cut Flower Conference, held in 2016, was very popular with established and beginning cut flower growers and growers considering adding cut flowers to their diversified farms.
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2017 Processing Vegetable Crops Advisory Meeting

Event Offers DEC Credits

December 13, 2017
9:30 AM - 2:30 PM
Batavia, NY

All processing vegetable growers and industry members are invited to attend. Discuss the 2017 growing season and management concerns. Reports and discussion of the 2017 Projects funded by the New York Vegetable Research Council/Association. Review priorities and the role of the advisory group in applications for state and federal grants. Give your input on the format of future advisory meetings and future educational programs. 
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Announcements

Available: 2017 Certified Seed Potato Directory

The 2017 NYS Certified Seed Potato Crop Directory is now available. There is a wealth of information on NYS potato seed certification, as well as on the varieties grown for certification in 2017. The varieties include standards for processing and tablestock, newer varieties and numbered lines, and specialty/heirloom varieties. Brief summaries of the varieties' maturity, appearance, yield potential, and major disease susceptibility are included. Contact info for the growers with seed supplies of each variety is included. There is also a listing of the inspectors from the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets in Albany and Syracuse.

Growing for Wholesale Guidelines Available

Grading and packing guidelines are now available for 16 commonly grown specialty crops in NYS: broccoli crowns, Brussels sprouts, corn, green peppers, cucumbers, green cabbage, red cabbage, savory cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, green beans, jalapenos, poblanos, Hungarian hot peppers, summer squash, and zucchini.

Acceptable quality standards and common defects that should be sorted out on the grading line are depicted in these resources, both visually and in outline form. Find all of the grading sheets here.

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