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With climate factors like record heat, growers take steps for what they can control, from harvest to storage.

Unrelenting summer heat impacted onion health and size during key growing months.

Logan Skeen, at left, with his father, Paul Skeen, of Skeen Farms, Nyssa, Oregon

Every year, onion growers face unpredictable factors with climate. They know Mother Nature is in control, and the challenge is to adapt in a timely manner. Across the world, climate shifts have impacted growing seasons in varying degrees. In North America’s northwest region, onion growers saw consecutive days of record heat affecting their onions in the field. According to one onion grower, Logan Skeen of Skeen Farms in Nyssa, Oregon, some degree of diminished onion size was expected as summer was transitioning to harvest time. “The heat stress on our plants in the field impacts a good, protective canopy, leaving the onion’s health more vulnerable,” says Skeen. Prior to harvest, Skeen was guessing the yield would be down due to the stresses of continual, above-average heat during the key growing months.

The day-after-day heat leaves onions more vulnerable to disease.

For onion varieties like yellow, white, and red, the plant’s canopy shields and protects the onion’s neck from vulnerability to disease. When the canopy is heat-stressed, that in turn puts stress on the onion’s neck. Anthony Molitor with Industrial Ventilation, Inc. (IVI) works year after year with growers like Logan Skeen, staying up to date with any developments and concerns with crop health. Molitor is well aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy neck on the onion. “As growers know, the neck is the lifeline to the bulb,” describes Molitor, “When the neck and stands have been stressed and are unhealthy, disease entry can occur.”

Harvest timing is often a matter of out-guessing Mother Nature.

Onion growers weigh critical considerations when deciding when to schedule harvesting. During the summer of 2021, in the northwest as well as other regions in North America, the variables were more tenuous. Growers had to decide between harvesting before possible moisture hits, or taking a chance on more time in the field in order to achieve a larger-sized onion. Surface drying bulbs in the field is also desirable for fast curing before storage dormancy. And some heavy area rainfall in the fall added to the risk considerations.

Great care at harvest pays off, as does storage prep.

Growers take considerable care at harvest to protect healthy crops, with both handling and transporting. Fortunately, for North American growers like Skeen, the trip from field to storage by truck transport is quick, sometimes within an hour. Careful sorting benefits the collective quality of the onions moving into each storage building. According to IVI’s Molitor, wooden buildings continue to be a favored choice for building type, often straight wall style. “Although we do see some metal buildings, wood continues to be ideal for area growers, who also favor bins for storing their onions.” Molitor works with growers to schedule an application of Jet-Ag® for when onions are moving into storage. The treatment of PAA disinfects every nook and cranny of the storage, helping create optimal storage conditions.

Treating onions once the doors close provides the protection growers deserve.

With the level of effort that goes into producing and protecting a healthy crop, storage is no time to let up. The protection provided by an application of Jet-Ag has convinced many growers. Skeen is one of them. He and his father Paul, a fifth-generation Oregon farmer, have utilized this chemical treatment service from IVI as a type of insurance. “For us,” explains Skeen, “it’s just part of the process. We don’t skip this simple but important step. It’s a very small percentage of our overall costs, but the risk we would take for a loss in even one building, well, it just gives us the assurance that we have taken every measure of protection. Peace of mind is the big benefit.”

Jet-Ag is a proven desiccant, effectively drying any existing moisture.

Moisture is the enemy in storage, and Jet-Ag goes to work on drying it up. The vapor application finds all surfaces. One application is typically all that is needed for a grower’s best protection from threatening fungal or bacterial disease. Threatening spores break down on a cellular level. The process is fast, safe, and efficient. With growers seeing the effects of the excessive summer heat on onions, with yields being down to varying degrees, protection becomes even more paramount.

Growers also turn to Jet-Ag after the initial stage of storage.

If disease is found at a later stage in storage, IVI has helped growers turn things around and salvage stored onions with an application of Jet-Ag. If a weakness exists and leaves an onion vulnerable, the threat of a spread can be effectively thwarted. Growers know the signs to look for, from the collapsed and blackening neck due to the fungal Neck Rot, to the white mold of White Rot. Jet-Ag is also effective in combating bacterial enemies like Bulb Rot. IVI’s team is on the ready to work with you in the most effective plan possible, with strategies developed from years of successful partnerships with growers and the demonstrated results.

Creating ideal storage conditions means monitoring airflow, temperature and humidity.

Along with chemical treatment at the time of storage entrance, growers know ideal indoor climate is key to getting the maximum duration while maintaining the onion’s quality over time. To start, proper curing can keep an onion’s size reduction to a minimum. Heat parameters can be set and monitored with IVI’s storage control panels. Our app keeps it readily available for monitoring and making adjustments. An IVI sales rep can help you with a storage system and the control panel to direct all the parameters. Some of our products include:

  • Heating units for curing
  • Thermadoors, to take advantage of ambient outside air flow
  • Centrifugal and prop fans for ideal air flow
  • Humidity control

IVI helps growers maintain control for ideal hold time.

Ideal storage conditions that follow curing maximize hold time to ensure the longest duration possible. Dehumidification is important for all root crop storage, and is especially critical for onions. IVI is uniquely suited to partner with onion growers, with superior Made-in-the-USA products, backed by the knowledge and experience that grows with each season and each customer relationship. Our service results in partnerships that expand generations.

Contact the IVI service rep. in your region to learn more. We offer layers of protection, just right for onions.

Jet-Ag® is a registered trademarks of Jet Harvest Solutions®.

November 9, 2021