25 September 1998

Earlier maturing onion variety set for success

ONION sets have boosted the reliability of crops grown on farms at the northern climatic limit and provided growers further south with an early entry into the market. Although only a trickle of new varieties for sets production reaches NIAB trials, one has performed well in its debut season this year.

"Sets are currently used to establish about one-third of the national crop compared with just 10% a decade ago, and their share of the market is still expanding," says NIABs vegetable specialist Mike Day. "They provide an early start to harvest and a foot in the door of the new seasons market. Although they produce a visually attractive onion. But they are costly to grow so variety choice is very important. There are so few new onions coming forward that the arrival of a new one for sets production is always an event."

New for 1998 is Setton from Novartis/S&G. A Sturon selection, it matures about two days after the standard type to give a slightly higher yield of well shaped bulbs.

Last years newcomer, Van de Haves Marimba which gave a high early yield in 1997, was the latest maturing of eight sets varieties grown in the HDC-funded trials in Norfolk and Lincs this year. But it still gave the highest yield. &#42