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Sustainable Agriculture: Programs: Organic Production

Organic Vidalia Onion Program in Georgia

Photo: Onions growingVidalia Onions are one of Georgia’s most successful vegetable crops with approximately 12,000 acres of total production and a crop value between $70 and $100 million dollars. The University of Georgia began research on how to produce onions organically in 2002 as onion producers began receiving requests from buyers for organic Vidalia onions. Organic Vidalia onions are now the fastest growing organic commodity in the state of Georgia, with 400 total acres of production (representing 3% of all Vidalia onion acreage), and accounting for 22% of the states 1,799 certified organic acres.

An organic onion research plot was established at the Vidalia Onion and Vegetable Research Center in Lyons, GA in 2002 to examine several aspects of organic onion production.

  • Various fertility programs have been evaluated for favorable production of both onion transplants and final onion stands. Poultry litter and compost have been evaluated at different application rates. Poultry litter applications at 4-10 tons to the acre demonstrate the best performance and total yields. (see below for full article)
  • Weed control is considered the most pressing problem in organic onion production. We examined hand weeding and natural mulches for weed control. Four treatments were studied: hand weeding, pine straw mulch, wheat straw mulch, and Bermudagrass hay mulch. Bermudagrass and wheat straw demonstrated some allelopathic effects resulting in stand loss. Best yields were obtained with hand weeding (see below for full article).

Despite recent significant growth, organic Vidalia onion production is still unable to meet market demands. Organic Vidalia onion production is expected to continue to grow. With organic yields now approaching those of conventional production, next steps in research priorities are to identify potential crop rotations and cover crops to maintain production yields and crop quality.

Publications and Resources

For more information contact:

  • George Boyhan
    Professor

    Horticulture Department
    1111 Miller Plant Science Bldg
    Athens, GA 30602-7273
    Phone: 706-542-2471
    E-mail: gboyhan@uga.edu
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