Over the next four years, researchers will be looking for answers for some of the most problematic bacterial diseases in onions. The USDA Specialty Crops Research Initiative is providing $4 million for the Stop the Rot project, with an additional $4.2 million from onion growers, universities and seed companies.
“What we’re looking at is bacterial diseases of onions and we’re interested in trying to determine which bacteria are causing problems in California,” said Vegetable Crops Farm Advisor, Brenna Aegerter. “And then also trying to develop some tools – particularly a rapid diagnostic tool that would help us with diagnosing the problems – but also giving some tools to the breeding industry and the seed companies.”
The collaborative project will incorporate all seven of the U.S. growing regions, with Aegerter focused on how the different bacterial diseases affect California production. “We have some ideas about what management practices might be beneficial in reducing the disease, but we want to really refine those recommendations. So, we’ll be doing field trials looking at different strategies,” Aegerter noted.
The Stop the Rot project will incorporate research looking at the host, pathogen, and environment of bacterial diseases. Bacterial pathogens are responsible for more than $60 million in crop losses every year. In order to develop practical strategies for detection and management, the project is going to require the participation of industry members.
“We need to know about commercial onion fields that have problems with bacterial disease; whether it’s a foliar disease or a bulb disease, we want to know about it. We’ll come and take samples,” said Aegerter. “The other thing we need is just feedback from the industry on our project. So if they read about the project or they hear about it and they want to provide any kind of feedback to us on how we’re doing, we need that.”
Listen to the interview below.