South Texas rains likely didn’t harm onion harvest

Price to growers plummet after a strong start

WESLACO  –  Rains that fell April 28 will likely have little effect on the South Texas onion harvest, according to an expert at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco.

Dr. Juan Anciso, AgriLife Extension vegetable specialist in Weslaco, watches white onions roll on a conveyor at a packing shed south of McAllen. (AgriLife Communications photo by Rod Santa Ana)

Dr. Juan Anciso, AgriLife Extension vegetable specialist in Weslaco, watches white onions roll on a conveyor at a packing shed south of McAllen. (AgriLife Communications photo by Rod Santa Ana)

“Onions are a dry weather crop,” said Dr. Juan Anciso, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service vegetable specialist in Weslaco. “And until Sunday, onions had had the perfect weather, and production was going through the roof. But most of the crop has been harvested, so unless it keeps raining, which is not expected, it shouldn’t hurt the crop.”

Rainfall amounts ranging from an inch to as much as 6 inches along the Rio Grande fell April 28, with most areas receiving from a half inch to 3 inches, Anciso said.

“Fortunately, about 60 percent of the crop had already been harvested,” he said. “There will be a slight delay in harvesting the remainder thanks to soggy fields, but it should only be a slight delay.”

Growers planted some 7,300 acres of onions, roughly the same amount as last year, Anciso said. Unfortunately, high market prices early in the season did not hold up.

“Prices started out strong in early April when the harvest began,” he said. “The national supply of onions was short so the demand was high. But with our high yields this year, actually through-the-roof yields of up to 1,000 bags per acre, the supply eventually exceeded demand and prices started dropping in mid-April.”

Early in the season, depending on the size of onion harvested, yellow onions were fetching $15 to $20 per 50-pound bag, and $20 to $25 for white and red onions.

“Those high prices lasted for two weeks,” Anciso said. “By mid-April, prices had dropped roughly by half. Yellows and whites are now bringing $8 to $10 and red onions bring $14 to $16 per bag.”

Before the late April rain, the area’s hot, dry weather had produced little insect or disease pressures on the onion crop, resulting in high quality bulbs, Anciso said. Once fields dry out, harvesting will continue with little or no deterioration in quality.

“Vegetables do very well down here in hot, dry weather because they are all grown in irrigated fields,” he said. “That means just the right amount of water is delivered to the crops. The more rain there is, the more decay, insects and disease we see. But more rain is not in the forecast so we should finish out our vegetable harvest in good shape and on time.”

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