Robert Bell with Western Onion in Camarillo, CA, and partners at New Zealand Onion are testing seed mildew resistant onion, and results are showing the resistance can be passed on.
Robert is doing a small trial with five grams of seed left over from two seasons ago, he said. “I sent NZ 15 grams, all I had at the time, and they’ve been growing and crossing into our varieties to see if the trait could be passed on.”
Robert added, “It seems to pass this trait on when crossing, but to be certain we’re having a lab in Salinas check the DNA markers to confirm.” The impetus for the testing, he said, is the “EU’s green initiative to reduce growing inputs by 30 percent, and fungicide is a huge chunk of that.”
He continued, “But since it’s a long-day onion, producing seed has been challenging. And the only reason I had this seed was I had an umbel that wasn’t ready when they needed to plant in NZ.”
Also, he said, “When we got the seed in 2019 from a seed bank in the Netherlands, we were given 300 very old seeds, from which we only produced 30 small bulbs that I planted the following year to see if I could make said seed and also see – since I live in an extremely high mildew area – how resistant it was. It was very successful. I had a lot of mildew on my squash and cucumbers, but the onions, which received no fungicide were perfect.”
Western Onion had an upset in its regular testing this year, and the smaller project’s success will be used to build stock, Robert explained.
“Unfortunately the seeds we were growing this year in California to build our stock were burned up by the accidental herbicide spray job. So I am using leftover seed scraps, and we’re about our success so far.”
Thank you to Robert for sending photos. Click images to enlarge and scroll.