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

Christy Hoepting, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

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.

Stop the Rot article (pdf; 1356KB)

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Upcoming Events

Chautauqua Winter Vegetable Meeting

Event Offers DEC Credits

February 10, 2023
Clymer, NY

Meeting will feature growers from Ohio sharing their production know-how and thoughts on food safety. Other topics include weed control, pesticide safety, and the impact of poor crop nutrition. 0.75 DEC credits in 1a, 23 plus 0.5 in CORE, which is good for all categories. Trade show booths available. 

Meeting cost is $20/person, includes snacks and educational materials. Registration required by 4 pm on Friday, February 3. 

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Orleans Regional Vegetable Meeting

Event Offers DEC Credits

February 15, 2023
Albion, NY

Offering presentations in pesticide safety, tips for managing diseases in vegetable crops, how to attract beneficial insects to your field, herbicide options for cole crops, and strawberry disease information. Meeting cost is $10 per person, payable at the door via cash or check. Pre-registration requested by 5:00 pm on Monday, February 13.

DEC credits available: 2.25 in 1a and 10; 2.0 in 23; 1.5 in 22; and 0.5 in CORE (used in all categories)!!

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NYS Processing Vegetable Industry Roundtable Meeting

Event Offers DEC Credits

March 15, 2023 : Morning Session: Snap Beans, Sweet Corn, and Peas
Batavia, NY

Processing vegetable industry members who grow, manage, or support snap bean, sweet corn, or pea production for Nortera and/or Seneca Foods, should attend this session of the roundtable meeting. You will:

  • Network at this in-person meeting.
  • Learn the results of industry-funded research.
  • Have a voice in Cornell research and extension.
  • Earn 2.0 DEC credits in categories 1a, 10, 23 and CCA recertification credits.

This FREE event is followed by lunch! Pre-registration requested.


March 15, 2023 : Lunch Break and Networking

Lunch is FREE to anyone attending either the Morning Session or the Afternoon Session of the NYS Processing Vegetable Industry Roundtable Meeting. Registration is required.


Event Offers DEC Credits

March 15, 2023 : Afternoon Session: Beets and Carrots
Batavia, NY

Processing vegetable industry members who grow, manage, or support beet or carrot production for Nortera, Seneca Foods and/or Love Beets, should attend this session of the roundtable meeting. You will:

  • Network at this in-person meeting.
  • Learn the results of industry-funded research.
  • Have a voice in Cornell research and extension.
  • Earn 2.0 DEC credits in categories 1a, 10, 23 and CCA recertification credits.

Lunch is provided before this session. It's FREE! Pre-registration requested. 

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Announcements

2022 Year in Review Released

Our 2022 Year in Review report highlights some of our 2022 projects and community outreach efforts impacting commercial vegetable, greenhouse, potato, and dry bean producers in 14 counties of western and central New York, and beyond.
  • Education and Technical Assistance Provided to Providence Farm Collective
  • Engineering Improvements in Biodegradable Mulch
  • Perseverance Leads to Solution for Perennial Sowthistle in Onion
  • Potato Programming Spans Farms of All Sizes
  • Improving Winter High Tunnel Soil Nitrogen Management
  • Laser Scarecrows Tested on Local Farms
  • New York Vegetable Industry Support
Cornell Cooperative Extension is Your Trusted Source for Research-Based Knowledge!

Small-Scale Fresh Mkt Potato Variety Trial Results

This year, the Cornell Vegetable Program planted a potato variety trial focused on commercially available fresh market potato varieties, with the small-scale potato grower in mind. This trial allowed us to test different varieties of potatoes that might be of interest to consumers at farm markets and see how well they perform in a western NY climate. 

We've posted a brief overview of our results on the Potato page.

If you would like the full report (PDF with photos and yield data) emailed to you, email Margie Lund.

New Ag Climate Factsheet Released

The intersection of agricultural production and greenhouse gases is gathering increasing attention. This is an opportune time to consider how vegetable production interacts with carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions, and how using cover crops may alter this picture.

The factsheet, Greenhouse Gases and Soil Organic Carbon in Vegetable Production and the Role of Cover Crops, written by Zach Spangler, Ag Climate Resiliency Specialist with CCE Harvest NY, and Elizabeth Buck, Fresh Market Vegetable Specialist, CCE Cornell Vegetable Program, discusses:
  • Sequestration of atmospheric carbon in agricultural soils as soil organic carbon (SOC). Is vegetable production impacting SOC?
  • Net greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4) from the soil.
  • Impact of cover crops on soil organic carbon, nitrous oxide emissions, and other GHG emissions.


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