It has been a tale of two winters for Georgia Vidalia onion producers. Last year’s abnormally mild winter was highlighted by warmer temperatures. This season has been characterized by wetter conditions and cooler temperatures.
It has impacted the growth of the state’s onion crop so far this season, says Chris Tyson, University of Georgia Extension Area Onion Agent at the Vidalia Onion & Vegetable Research Center in Lyons, Georgia.
“We had some warm weather in December and January last year and it really got the onions up jumping. This year they’re just off to a much slower start. That’s okay. It’s not a problem. It’s just been a cool, cold, slow start. The growth has just been really slow to begin with,” Tyson said.
Slow Start, Just Not a Bad Start
A slow start is not necessarily a bad thing either for onion producers.
“The sooner the onions get big and get growing, the sooner we have to fight disease and manage fertility. I think recent years have been uncharacteristically warmer, above average; we almost have gotten used to that the last few years. But this year it may be more of an average year,” Tyson said. “You talk to these Vidalia onion growers and they’ll tell you about years when we’ve had really cold weather and we’ve had hard freezes. It’s caused problems in the past. We haven’t seen any extremes like that (this year).
“We don’t want to get the onions too big and have a bad freeze or something like that. When they get big like that, the freeze damage can hurt them worse.”
Moisture is not a problem either for Georgia onion farmers. According to the US Drought Monitor, only a few coastal counties and some in the southwestern part of the state are abnormally dry. Most of the state got saturated during the New Year’s Holiday weekend.
“A lot of places in the onion belt got 3 to 5 inches. In this time of the year when it’s cold and not much evaporation, it makes things really wet and takes a while to dry off,” Tyson said.
“As far as moisture goes for the onions, we feel like we’re in pretty good shape right now.”