A new variety for all seasons, or seasonings, will tempt onion growers this year. These specialized growers look for healthy yields of large, firm bulbs with single centers and good necks, resistance to bolting and diseases, as well as pleasing flavor. Level of desirable pungency depends on the intended market. Growers of high pungency onion types often cater to the processing market. With the increasing consumer demand for onions promoted as sweet, and for colors and tastes that entice specialty market shoppers, onion breeders continue to develop varieties to fit every use.

Large growers in particular appreciate onions with the ability to store and ship well. The wide range of maturity dates fosters grower opportunities to compete in several markets. Cold hardiness helps growers in many areas who overwinter their crops. Varieties developed for machine harvesting also enhance grower options.

Onion specialists from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and from several universities, including Colorado State, Texas A&M and the University of Wisconsin, are making strides in disease resistance, productivity and the health properties of onions. An ARS group led by Dr. Michael Havey has identified several approaches for onion breeders to enhance the promising healthful attributes of onions to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Iris yellow spot virus has become more problematic for onion growers in several regions. Dr. Christopher Cramer of New Mexico State University is breeding varieties to tolerate this virus. In addition, university researchers in Colorado State, the University of Idaho and Washington State are developing cultural practices to control this disease. The following new and nearly new varieties for the 2008 season were available by press time.

Short-day types

Goldeneye (EX 07542007), an early Granex-shaped hybrid developed by Seminis, has pink root resistance, good bolting tolerance and intermediate resistance to Fusarium basal rot. This mild onion has a high sugar content, low pungency and excellent uniformity. It has high potential for large yields of medium yellow bulbs.

Nunhems’ new Lambada matures in 155 to 165 days. It has good pink root resistance, and its red, globe-shaped bulbs grade large to jumbo in size.

UG-7002 has performed well in early testing. Bred by United Genetics for Texas and Mexico, this white hybrid has excellent bulb characteristics.

Currently in production by United Genetics, UG-7004 matures its Grano-shaped bulbs medium early, slightly earlier than UG-7002. With excellent white coloration, this hybrid was bred for Mexico, Southern California and Texas.

United Genetics bred hybrid UG-9004 for Georgia and international markets. A high-quality, yellow, Granex-type, it is deeper than the typical Granex, with very mild, sweet, attractive, large bulbs.

Intermediate or midday types

Seminis’ Altagracia (XP 07505015) produces medium-dark skinned, yellow, round, high-quality bulbs with good firmness. This hybrid with high yield potential has strong foliage and resists pink root.

Aquila, bred by Nunhems, has very good pink root resistance. Its very large to jumbo-sized, deep globe-shaped, white bulbs mature in 101 to 105 days.

Campo Lindo, a round, yellow onion with medium-dark skin and good firmness, resists pink root and has strong foliage. Seminis bred this new hybrid.

Bejo Seeds’ Delgado matures a high proportion of single-centered, large, round bulbs in 117 days with strong, erect, green tops. Excellent from transplants, this Spanish onion also produces well from direct seeding. It could be considered for processing and has medium-long storage ability.

Guadalupe has strong foliage that tolerates warm-season leaf diseases. A Seminis variety, this yellow hybrid has good bolting tolerance and Fusarium basal rot and pink root resistance. It’s round, yellow bulbs with medium-dark skins have high yield potential.

With noticeably thin necks that dry well at maturity, and with superior bolting tolerance, Leona also resists Fusarium basal rot and pink root. Seminis developed this early, globe-shaped, large, yellow onion with medium to light brown, thin scales.

Sakata’s new Mt. Whitney consistently produces globe-shaped, white, jumbo-size onions with brilliant white scales and a high percentage of single centers. This hybrid has performed well in the San Joaquin Valley, but is also suitable for mid-early intermediate plantings throughout the U.S. and Mexico. An adaptable high yielder, Mt. Whitney tolerates pink root.

Ovation, a late intermediate hybrid, also developed by Sakata, can transition into the Spanish onion production period. This yellow, brown-scaled, uniform, globe-shaped onion averages jumbo-plus in size. Further, it consistently produces superior yields with a high proportion of single centers, and it tolerates pink root and Fusarium basal rot.

Long-day types

Bred by American Takii for the Northeast, Adventure features good-sized, tight, firm, globe-shaped bulbs with a high percentage of single centers. Maturing in mid-late season, hybrid Adventure can be stored through late March.

BGS-229 has a strong root system and resists drought. Maturing in just 95 days, this medium-storage Bejo Seeds variety produces large, round bulbs with strong, copper-colored skin and erect, healthy tops.

Another Bejo variety, BGS-230, is an early maturing, European Spanish-type onion, rather than the more common California Spanish type. Highly productive, this early (104 days) main season onion has healthy, light-green, erect tops with good resistance to thrips. Widely adapted, it is suitable for long storage.

Bred for western production by Seminis, Caveat (EX 07718117) is an early Spanish storage onion with 108-day maturity. Its globe-shaped bulbs have an attractive, dark color and grade from medium to colossal. This variety has long storability, good bolt tolerance and resists Fusarium basal rot.

Champlain (EX 07715776) matures in 90 days for medium-term storage. Bred by Seminis for eastern growers, it is recommended for cooler growing areas and deep mucks. It has potential for an early transplant onion and is well suited for mechanical harvest. With its expected high yields, it resists Fusarium basal rot and has intermediate resistance to pink root rot. Its large, round bulbs have dark skin and small necks.

Damascus (EX 07718112), a midseason, Spanish, storage onion, has blocky, globe-shaped bulbs with dark skin. A Seminis-bred variety for the West, Damascus grades from medium to jumbo. Also, it has high yield potential and is adapted to both gravity and sprinkler irrigation. It resists Fusarium basal rot and tolerates bolting.

With good skin retention, Joliet’s dark-colored bulbs can be marketed directly from the field or stored medium-term. This hybrid, developed by Seminis for the East, has resistance to Fusarium basal rot and intermediate resistance to pink root rot. Joliet (XP 07715666) produces uniform, large, globe-shaped bulbs in 100 to 105 days.

Another Seminis eastern variety, Mackenzie (EX 07715682) produces high yields of large, round, uniform, yellow bulbs with excellent storability. With resistance to Fusarium basal rot and intermediate resistance to pink root rot, Mackenzie has performed well in New York State and Canada.

American Takii’s hybrid early-maturing Milestone produces hard, yellow Spanish-type onions with brown skin and thin necks. Uniform, and with a high proportion of single centers, it is ideal for fresh, processing and export markets.

A midseason, hybrid, Spanish onion, Monarchos produces uniform bulbs that are highly single-centered with outstanding scale cover for machine harvest. Also bolt tolerant, it resists Fusarium basal rot. Its dark scales give it an attractive appearance. Bred by Seminis for western growers, Monarchos matures in 120 days.

Nicolet (EX 07715162) has performed well in trials in the Midwest, as well as Oswego and Orange Counties in New York. With outstanding plant vigor and a strong root system, this Seminis variety has high expected yields of large, globe to tall-globe shaped bulbs. For long- term storage, it matures in 112 days.

Bred by Crookham, Nobility has good pink root, Fusarium and bolting tolerance. Well adapted to Canada and the eastern and midwest U.S., it stores for over six months. A hard, globe-shaped, yellow onion, it also has small necks.

Bejo’s productive Patterson (BGS-233) exhibits healthy tops, strong roots and strong, straw-colored skins. With 104-day maturity similar to Copra, Patterson’s globe-shaped bulbs with small necks have excellent storage ability.

Peso has small tops with resistance to thrips. Its large, round bulbs retain their skin well, and are good for medium-long storage. This Spanish onion, also bred by Bejo, matures in 115 days.

Bred for the eastern U.S. by Nunhems, Pulsar (7404) features large, globe-shaped onions with golden brown skin. With good pink root resistance, it matures in 100 to 103 days.

Adapted to mechanical harvest, Sakata’s new Spanish Medallion, with excellent skin retention and a high proportion of single centers, exhibits consistent yields. An early long-day variety, it performs well in Cali-fornia, Colorado, the northwest U.S. and other areas that require transition from intermediate to long-day Spanish onions. Further, it shows tolerance to both Fusarium basal rot and pink root.

Trailblazer matures early to midseason. This Northeast hybrid variety by American Takii features tight, firm, good-sized, globe-shaped bulbs with thin necks. With strong resistance to botrytis, it bolts slowly and can store until June under optimum conditions.

For short to midterm storage, Verrazano (XP 07715564) produces very large, uniform, medium-colored bulbs in 105 to 110 days. Resistant to Fusarium basal rot and with intermediate resistance to pink rot, Verrazano has a strong root system and good yield potential. Further, for a large onion, it shows good skin retention.

Bejo Seeds’ Yankee (BGS-236) completely resists downy mildew. This super hard storage onion sports a healthy top. It performs well from either direct seed or transplants. A Copra-type, but larger, and at 108 days, it matures later. Bejo reports it suitable for cold and wet climates, as well as organic production.

Adapted to the Western U.S. and Mexico, Crookham’s white, small-necked, Spanish variety, White Cloud, has good pink root and Fusarium tolerance. It also has good bolting tolerance and stores for four to six months.

Specialty types

Seminis reports that its Green Banner is a high-quality, bunching onion. With a very upright plant habit, strong, dark blue-green tops and an excellent shank, it matures early, has strong seedling vigor and extremely vigorous tops. Its resistance includes Fusarium basal rot and intermediate resistance to pink root.

Red Baron, a member of the bulbing onion group, has intense, dark-red coloring. Its developer, Bejo Seeds, recommends it for red bunching onions that keep red color even after outer leaves have been removed. In addition, Bejo suggests contrasting it with white bunching onions in displays.

Small, flat Cipolini-type Red Marble, also Bejo-bred, adapts to intermediate to long-day growing conditions. This attractive, dark-red variety also stores well.

Rosita forms perfectly round, pink bulbs with glossy skin. For long day production areas, Bejo Seeds says it imparts flavor and color to both salads and cooking.

NOTE: The varieties mentioned by the above breeders are available through dealers and distributors, most listed on their respective Web sites.

The author is a writer-researcher specializing in agriculture. She may be contacted at www.noblethots@verizon.net.