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Growing Onions – The Art & Science

By February 1, 2019Uncategorized

Soil Preparation

We first prepare the soil, keeping the top soil protected from erosion and we plant a break crop that puts nutrients into the soil, preparing it so it is ready to have tiny onion seeds sown to it.

Willow Produce OnionsPlanting Onion Seeds

We plant using machinery. A tractor pulls a planter and the planter is programmed as to the row spacing & planting depths. Once the seeds are planted, and the seeds are so tiny that we plant over 4 million seeds for our annual crop! the more in depth process begins.

Monitoring Growth

The next 9 months are my definition of my hubby’s pregnancy. He ever so intently watches his babies grow from right when they germinate, checking on them numerous times day and night, every day of their life. He gets up to them in the middle of the night, on a bad night it may be 2 or 3 times. They grow over the 7 months and each day they are monitored for health and illness, pest infestation, nutrient deficiency, root disease and water sufficiency.

Each and every day numerous decisions are made to aim to guide the plants to optimum health in what conditions nature provides. These daily decisions have implications from numerous angles, and some are beyond our control, from environmental, financial, efficiency options, yield potential, & sustainability as examples. The path to guiding the plants to optimum health during their growing stages requires vast reserves of patience, flexibility, communication, understanding and love. Pretty much similar to parenting really!

Our decisions are drawn from our own knowledge base, learning that has been passed down the generations, agronomist advice, weather forecasts, moisture probe meters, inputs availability & costs, historical data, SAP and soil testing, and at times you just have to tap into the ‘gut’ instinct for potential solutions to certain problems!

Sampling and Testing

During the growth of the crop, we send produce samples to an accredited specialised testing laboratory where Plant Tissue Analysis testing is conducted to determine the current nutrient status of the produce. Some of the nutrients we have tested for include Nitrate, Ammonium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Sulphur, Zinc, Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Sodium, Chloride. Plant Tissue Testing on our crops gives us accurate information about the nutrient status of the produce, where we can base decisions about the direction of optimal plant health with a more strategic approach.

Harvesting Onions

Once harvest comes along the individual plants show signs of being ready when their leaves begin to fall. We slash the tops of the onions and our harvester comes through gently lifting the onions out the ground. Sounds easy, yet there are so many things to be mindful of to prevent damage to individual onions, the safety of everyone during harvest and to efficiently get the produce out the ground and into storage ready for drying.

Storage, Grading and Packaging

The onions are then stored and graded and packaged for sale. We distribute our onions to local markets and to interstate wholesalers. Our onions end up in various supermarkets, green grocers and produce markets around the country. We currently produce over 1000 tonne of onions for supply to Australian Markets annually.

We trace our produce from when it is a seed to where it is stored once harvested and to when it is packaged and where it is to be transported. It is an in depth process that assists us in quality management. We are quality assured with Freshcare. To achieve our certification we are audited by an independent body annually, where we need to meet the requirements of the Freshcare Codes.

FreshcareFreshcare is an industry owned and not-for-profit on-farm assurance program. It was established and is maintained to service the Australian fresh produce industry. Freshcare is currently the largest Australian on–farm assurance program for fresh produce that provides on-farm food safety & quality and environmental certification services to over 5000 members nationally. The Freshcare Codes outline the practices required on farm to provide an assurance that the fresh produce is safe to eat, has been prepared to customer specifications and legislative requirements; and has been grown with care for the environment.

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