UK Onion Conference 2013

26 November 2013


Hans-Christoph Behr


Adam Leyland

This week Steve McArthur from Vigour attended the UK Onion conference. Below are short comments from the speakers at the UK onion conference,


Peter Kendall , NFU President:

  • Tesco are the UK Farmers biggest supporter and are committed to purchasing more produce closer to home
  • Sainsbury's by 2020 plan to double the sourcing of British Food.
  • Growers must have use of the best technology available, including pesticides.


Andy Richardson, Allium & Brassica Agronomy

  • Has been testing 151 new pesticide products (1/2 classified as biopesticides)
  • High water rates much more effective for thrip control
  • Experimenting with varying rates of herbicide over the bed, more on the wheel tracks and between the rows and less ove the plant for higher yield and improved weed control.
  • Testing electricity for weed control by cooking the plants, like a TASER for weeds.


Dr. Charles Lane, Food and Environment Research Agency

  • 7 different species of botrytis, B.aclada and B.allii the culprits for neck rot infection.
  • Seed treatments are very effective for control of botrytis neck rot


Professor Lindsey Du Toit - Washington State University

  • Botrytis fungal spores can survive in the soil for a number of years
  • Healthy plants are highly unlikely to be infected by botrytis
  • Main causes of infection are, leaf damage, moisture on the senescing or damaged foliage, temps of 15-25 deg C, Thick necks (excessive N).
  • Onion growers cannot escape the presence of the pathogen
  • No shortages of effective fungicide to control botrytis, timing is critical at times of leaf damage eg Hail, Topfall and senescence.
  • Seed infection is not the key driver to neck rot infection in the bulbs
  • Neck rot does not spread bulb to bulb in storage


Peder Krogsgard, Hortiadvice, Denmark

  • If the onions do not get a good start they will never be good
  • Cost of production 16 euro cents per kg for conventional and 47 euro cents per kg for organic.
  • Organic onions make up 11% of plantings in Denmark, yields of 35-40t/ha.


Alfonso Tarazona, Cebollas Tara, Spain

  • 10% of Spanish onions are produced by home gardeners for their own consumption (34,000 tonnes).
  • Spanish onion growers are optimistic "no matter how hard the las season as , the next season is going to be the one"
  • Spain 22,600ha onions, 1.259 million tonnes
  • Drip irrigation more and more popular,
  • Transport becoming a problem all over Europe, many transport companies have gone broke
  • Spain expects to export 280,000 tonnes this season


Kris Comerford, Tesco

  • UK consumers have £5 less disposable income per week now than in 2010, since that time grocery prices up 3.9%
  • Promoting pink onions along with the link to the cancer research promotions
  • Attempting to make their produce staff feel and act like the greengrocers of old


Michelle Bailey, Bakkavor

  • Food processor, £1.7 billion turnover, 19,000 employees, 5,500 product lines.
  • 230 million ready meals, 145 million pizzas, 280 million bags of salads
  • Uses 120,000 tonnes of vegetables per annum, of which onions are very important 17,500 tonnes of onions from 7 suppliers
  • Onions are in 4,000 of the 5,500 products
  • Onions are not the hero ingredient they are the fundamental ingredient.


Adam Leyland, The Grocer Magazine

  • Retail in the UK having a tough time, consumers are shopping little and often
  • More than 500,000 people in the UK are using food banks
  • Rise of the discounter and small convenient markets in the UK
  • Consumers are - preserving cash, reducing waste, and avoiding temptation


Dr. Hans-Christoph Behr, AMI Germany

  • Prospects of onion growers are good, however, do not forget to sell!!!!
  • Quality of EU onions better than last year, but less of them
  • Brazil have more onions this year than last
  • Demand for onions is rather inelastic , therefore the consumer prices have increased considerably in many European countries.
  • Dutch exports , From the beginning of the season up to week 42/2013 exports reached 234,000 T, which is 44,000 t less than last year.



John Patrick, British Onions Chairman

  • UK grew 9,316ha of onions, 23% of which are reds
  • In last 10 years reds gone form 10% to 23% of plantings
  • Net tonnage in the UK overall down 12-14% on last year
  • Retail demand in the UK down 5% on last year
  • Still some onions to be harvested



There were a number of trade displays, HORSTINE make a good range of granual applicators for pesticides and fertilisers direct on the bed, very impressive make a spot sprayer the uses an imaging system ahead of the spray boom and locates the crop row and can determine weeds to spray, it is getting better this system. It can be used also in cultivation in this video the Robocrop working in what appears to be an organic onion system