With a very good onion crop in the ground.  We must now think of bringing the crop to market.We have already sent out notes on onion storage which some of you did not get.  So herewith notes for those of you who did not get the first edition.
1. Storage begins with reaping - before the rain and at the right time of day.  Rain on a reaped onion crop lying in the lands will greatly reduce the shelf life of bulbs and make it much more difficult to store the crop.  At the start of reaping, harvesting teams must be ready,
2. and tractors and trailers fully operational for a slick, fast moving operation.  
With late planted crops and impending rain some growers have resorted to spraying the crops with gramoxone.  This certainly dries off green leaves quickly and seals the necks, but
3. it is a dangerous practice.  Gramoxone is a purple label poison, so the harvesting period must be strictly adhered to, when handling or consuming the bulbs.

4. When 50% of the necks are down the crop should be pulled and laid down in lines with leaves covering the bulbs
5. to prevent sunburn, or made into stooks.  Sunburn allows pathogens to gain access into the bulb in storage. With stooks the bulbs are placed on the inside with leaves on the outside.  Some growers build the stook over a pipe +/- 7cm in diameter.
6. When the stook is complete the pipe is removed leaving a tunnel, allowing dry air to be drawn into the middle of the stook.Once the leaves are dry the drier can be packed.  Packing should take the place in the hottest, driest part of the day.
7. As little excess water as possible should be taken into the drier.  The drier should be switched on prior to packing.  Do not pack the direr and then switch on.The height of the bulk in the drier should be 2.5M and never more than 3M.
8. Initially temperatures of the incoming air in the drier from the farms should be at 37°C-38°C.  Air flow must be such that heated air is carried to the surface of each and every onion bulb so air must be well distributed in the drier with no cold areas.  After 3- 4 hours when
9. excess water has been removed temperatures can be dropped to 35°C and then 32°C .  The bulk can be kept at 28°C- 32°C but relative humidity should be kept at 64%.  Above 64% RH the chances of rotting are greatly increased.  Below 64% RH the bulb will be desiccated, shrivel
10. and lose weight Reading should be done 2-3 times daily. When RH is low the drier can be switched off.  When the RH is high the drier must be switched on.  The RH must be read with a probe reaching into the middle of the bulk.
11. A less efficient way of storing onions is to pack them in baskets +/- 50-70cm square.  The basket should be stacked so that there is constant air flow between baskets and checked daily.  Rotten bulbs must be removed on a daily basis.
12. Many of the fungi involved decay in the drier appear on the lands.  These include White Rot (Sclepotium Capivorum ), Neck rot (Botrytis SP), and Fusarium Basal Rot.  These organisms are carried from the lands into the drier.
13. As a precaution at the ART Farm summer exhibition in 2020, onion rows were drenched late season with broad spectrum fungicide KOBE and no rotting was observed in the reaped bulbs.
#farming #horticulture

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