Happy tears for an­nual onion crop

Alpine Observer - - News -

THERE is noth­ing easy about pre­par­ing onion, but the re­wards are un­de­ni­able.

Whether it be fight­ing back tears and sting­ing eyes in the kitchen or the gru­elling nine month har­vest process on the farm, onions make you earn them.

Myrtle­ford farmer, Tony Fer­raro, for the past eight years has been grow­ing onion seed for South Pa­cific Seed, a com­pany that ex­ports mostly to Japan.

“It’s a very chal­leng­ing crop to grow be­cause it takes about nine months from plant­ing the bulbs to har­vest­ing the seed,” Mr Fer­raro ex­plained.

“It’s about 39 to 40 weeks whereas a lot of crops are prob­a­bly 10-15.”

Pol­li­na­tion is also a very im­por­tant part of the onion seed process with 50 bee­hives re­quired for Mr Fer­raro’s 4.5 hectare block.

“You plant both male and fe­male onions and the bees are used to pol­li­nate the fe­males with the male. Once this is done you de­stroy the male and har­vest the fe­male,” he told North East Me­dia.

“You have to wait un­til you have enough flow­ers open be­fore you in­tro­duce the bees or else they will go off look­ing for some­thing else.

“We then em­ploy about 20-30 peo­ple to come in and snip the prod­uct be­fore dry­ing them all off in kilns.”

Kane McCormack of the Buck­land Val­ley is also in the in­dus­try, one that is sup­ported by South Pa­cific Seed agron­o­mists who visit at least once a week.

“The Ja­panese buy­ers have been out on the prop­erty to mon­i­tor how the crop is go­ing,” Mr Fer­raro said.

“It’s very chal­leng­ing grow­ing them through the win­ter months, cop­ping rains and storms, the hard­est task is to keep dis­eases out which is done by us­ing fungi­cide sprays. There are good her­bi­cides avail­able that con­trol the weeds.

“The re­turns are very good if you are able to over­come all the hur­dles.”

WORTH THE WAIT: Tony Fer­raro dis­plays his onion seed crop in Myrtle­ford. Mr Fer­raro de­scribes the crop as “quite pic­turesque and some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent”.

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