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Despite heat, onion quality looks good

Onion Variety Field DayMost everyone in the onion industry agrees that onions are coming out of the field early — 10 to 14 days days early.

They also agree that it has been a hot growing season, but there are some mixed reports on whether the heat is beneficial.

“High temperatures are a challenge for us,” said Bill Johnson, who farms on the Oregon Slope.

Onions can’t cure properly in the heat, he said, and they can get sunburned.

Onion harvest for him began Tuesday.

“We’re 10 days earlier than normal,” he said. “It’s been a warm year.”

But he is positive about his crop. “They look better than last year.”

Onions are being harvested early in central Washington, too, said Larry Bauman, president of Onions Direct, in Connell, Washington. He said the crop there is about average.

“All the crops are early,” he said.

Heat in the higher 90s stresses the onions, said Eric Feibert, senior research assistant at the Malheur Experiment Station. Such stress can reduce growth in the bulbs.

Jon Watson, president of JC Watson Co., which has farming, packing and shipping operations, said company onion crops on farms in Oregon and Idaho look good. Watson said part of the reason is that the company’s operation relies 100 percent on drip irrigation.

“It really improves plant health” by allowing more control of the inputs to the crop,” he said.

Getting water to onions grown in the Adrian area was the greatest challenge, Watson said, but a new well came online to help finish the crop in the end.

Kevin Corn, who farms with family between Cairo Junction and Nyssa, said his onion harvest has not yet started, but his family is cautiously optimistic about the crop.

“I think big onions are going to be worth something this year,” Corn said.

Murakami Produce has been receiving onions for about three weeks, general manager Grant Kitamura said. That’s about two weeks ahead of normal.

He attributed the early harvest to early planting and the heat. From his perspective, the onions are in good shape.

“Quality is really good,” he said.

Market conditions are good to compared to last year, Kitamura added. The dock strike at West Coast ports, which shut down access to international markets, has not harmed onion growers too much.

“There is still a good market,” he said.

Mexican and Californian onions are moving out, opening up the market for eastern Oregon and Idaho onions.

“Washington shippers are exporting,” unlike last year when they had to put their onions on the domestic markets, driving down prices, Kitamura added.

Read More: Onion Harvester Machine

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