Featured image: Tasman red onions, photo courtesy of Robert Bell with Western Onion in Camarillo, CA
Last week we featured some photos from New York of a U.S.- bred variety of seed from Tasman Seeds Co. in New Zealand. Our friend Robert Bell with Western Onion in Camarillo, CA, sent us the photos, and this week Robert provided more information on this hybrid that is showing good results in the U.S.
“The N.Y. photo was of one of the hybrid varieties we are developing for North America,” Robert said. “It’s a cross of N.Z. Pukekohe long day keeper (PLK) and two different genetic types developed in the United States.” He said he’s working on behalf of Tasman Seeds in the U.S. “to help develop a local breeding program to produce our hybrid seed here, which will pull the seed genetics from a late intermediate to a true long day, while preserving the traditionally outstanding storability of the Pukekohe varieties.”
Robert added “They, the family of PLK NZ varieties, were bred to hold up on the month-long sea voyages required for NZ export. Historically all the breeding has been done in New Zealand, which as I mentioned creates a late intermediate onion (due to its latitude) that works great as a transplant but is problematic for direct seeding in the NW.”
He continued, “The varieties must be planted in early March to give them time to properly mature. By breeding locally in the Treasure Valley and Western Oregon, we will produce varieties that will work if early conditions are not ideal and planting is delayed. They should also work anywhere in North America and Canada where long day varieties are planted.”
After two years away due to COVID travel restrictions, Michael Blake from New Zealand will join Robert and Dr. Mike Havey, who ran the University of Wisconsin USDA-ARS Department of Horticulture for 30 years and now consults with Tasman Seeds in developing our hybrid varieties, on an inspection trip to the first season mother bulb crop in mid-August.
“We should be able to produce locally our hybrid varieties in a couple of years, God willing,” Robert said. “Western Onion has been working with Tasman Seeds since the early 2000s, and hopefully we will be able to bring these locally bred lines of onions to market soon.”