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Growers report decent onion season

H&N photos by Gary Thain
Despite a late start and an early end, this year’s onion season produced a decent yield, growers say. This row of onions was dug up Wednesday on one of Scott Seus’ fields south of Newell

October 20, 2005 By DYLAN DARLING  H&N Staff Writer

Onions are in.

Growers of the flavorful bulb are bringing in their harvest around the Klamath Basin and reports are it's been a decent season.

“This year isn't too bad,” said Scott Seus, who grows onions south of Tulelake. “We could have used another two weeks of growing time at the start of the season.”

Those two weeks were washed away by heavy spring rains around the Basin that muddied the fields, making planting tough.

Wet weather returned this month when growers are digging onions out of the ground, but the sprinklings have been light and haven't impeded harvest too much.

“It hasn't stopped us,” Seus said. “Things are drying out, and we are getting going with it pretty heavy now.”

And it hasn't rained in most parts of the Basin since the weekend.

“Conditions are getting better every day the sun keeps shining,” Seus said.

Basin onions are some of the last to come out of the ground in California and Oregon, and most aren't headed for a supermarket shelf or a restaurant's kitchen.

Instead they are shipped to dehydration plants in Central California or Nevada. There they are made into onion powder and onion flakes.

The plants send trucks up to the Basin, fill them with onions and haul them the hundreds of miles to be dehydrated.

Dan Chin, who grows onions on both sides of the California-Oregon border near Merrill, said when the dehydration plant managers want Basin onions depends on when they get onions from southern and central California.

This year there were some problems with onions around Bakersfield, Calif., so the plants want Basin onions earlier than usual.

H&N photo by Gary Thain
Workers bring in this year’s onion harvest Wednesday in Scott Seus’ fields south of Newell.

The October moisture has created dirt clouts that can end up in the trucks with the onions, Seus said. The plant managers don't want to pay to haul dirt so they have rules about how much dirt they will accept with each load.

As a result, onion pickers move slower over the fields, taking time to separate out dirt clouts. Seus said the slower harvest adds to the cost of growing onions.

Although this year's onion growing season started late and is ending a bit early, Chin said a good summer made up for it.

“Overall, we had a good growing season for potatoes and onions,” he said.

But growers have said the yields are somewhat down because of the late start, said Harry Carlson, director and farm advisor at the University of California's research center in Tulelake.

“A couple of weeks can make a significant difference,” Carlson said.

Exact numbers about this year's harvest were not available.

Estimates from growers are that there are about 2,000 acres of onions in the Basin.

On average, the fields yield about 25 tons per acre, Chin said.

Growers said this year has been not quite as good as last year, when many had a great growing season.

Any predictions for next year's harvest?

“Ehh, you don't know,” Chin said. “Every year brings a different deal.”




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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