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Completed project

New onion protocols to assure viability of European exports (VN10001)

Key research provider: Field Fresh Tasmania
Publication date: Friday, September 25, 2015

What was it all about?

Australian onion exports to Europe are mostly sent in shipping containers fitted with a fan that circulates fresh air through the onions. Exports to Europe depart Australia from late January to early June, arriving from mid-March to mid-July. Exported onions have to be robust enough to withstand the wide range of climatic conditions that are experienced during these shipping times from monsoonal downpours in the tropics to 45oC heat in the Middle East.

Most shipments to Europe are re-graded by the customer to remove any onions with skin blemishes or rots, requiring onions to be resilient enough to withstand initial grading in Australia, two to three months in the shipping container, then a period of storage in Europe before final grading. Exporters are liable for quality up to this final grading regardless of how onions are stored and handled after arrival.  

This project, which ran from 2008 to 2014, set out to simulate industry commercial experiences then assess onions to see how well they withstood them. Researchers investigated new varieties, fertiliser programs and curing practices.

Major findings included…

  • The influence of curing practices on skin quality revealed that the greatest impact came from the time of lifting, with the data supporting earlier lifting rather than later lifting for produce destined for Europe

  • The time on ground also impacted on skin quality, but to a lesser extent

  • It is recommended that crops be harvested within 30 days of lifting

  • Fertiliser treatments made no improvement to product yield or quality

  • The level of soil moisture at the time of lifting did not adversely affect onions.
Related levy funds


This project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Onion Fund

Funding statement:
This project has been funded by Hort Innovation

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