High quality and high yield, the golden combination for Hazera onions

Hazera, part of Limagrain Group, is a specialist in the development, production and marketing of onion seed. The breeders have been working on strong varieties of excellent quality since the 1950s. The distribution of new, improved onion varieties is a slow process that can sometimes take more than 25 years. It is therefore important to have a good vision of what the market needs. What are the trends?

“For years the focus within the company has been on breeding and cultivation in the local markets, but since 2008, when Hazera was formed in its current form, there has been a complete global focus,” said Reinout de Heer, Global Product Manager Allium. “Onions are sensitive to day length. The length of the day determines the moment of bulb formation of the onion. Different varieties are therefore more or less suitable for cultivation per day length zone; from short day onions to extra long day onions. Due to the global focus, development programs and knowledge can be combined. This has given the worldwide cultivation, production and sale of high-quality onion seed a significant boost.”

More sales opportunities
Onions are a daily ingredient in the kitchen for many people worldwide. And although an onion is not sold at variety level in the supermarket. There you just buy a yellow, white, pink or red onion. The variety is important to the growers. Pablo Salgado, Onion Breeder: “They are focussing on disease resistance, skin quality, firmness and yield. Hazera is constantly working on innovations in this area in order to achieve the best onion with the highest yield for growers, processors and buyers. An example is the development of varieties that are suitable for multiple processing options, so that the grower has more possibilities in terms of sales opportunities.”

Semiagro, Peru: “The Peruvian onion market has grown thanks to the fantastic work of the collaboration between Semiagro and Hazera. With 17,500 hectares of planted cultivation area, the onion crop is positioned as the highest-producing vegetable in the Peruvian market.
The national consumption of pink onions represents 83% and 17% for the export market (mainly granex for the US). In addition, the conditions for the onion grower have improved, the possibilities for the national and export potential market for wholesalers have increased and the consumer has access to better quality onions.”

Superior material
Semiagro and Hazera have been working together for more than two decades on the development of hybrid onion varieties in Peru. Today, the Sivan F1 is the leading variety on the market and is recognized throughout the chain for its characteristics: excellent post-harvest, good skin retention, beautiful color and thin necks.

There are already promising trials for early onions. Year after year we see superior material from 3 new varieties (10414, 10416 and 10417), the result of 19 years of trials.”

Harvesting by machine
Within the yellow short day onions segment, the trend is to produce more uniform round onions. A change that is necessary, because manual harvesting and processing is becoming too expensive. Pablo: “By making sure the onions are more uniform and round, they can be harvested and sorted more easily by machine. Maintaining qualities such as firmness, skin retenation and disease resistance is very important.”

Dean Pye, Pye Produce harvesting Rhinestone onions in Canterbury 13 March 2019
Copyright photo © Steve McArthur / www.vigour.nz

Golden combination
In New Zealand and the Netherlands, many onions are destined for export. Reinout: “The onions must also remain of high quality during and after transport. Skin retention and firmness are important elements for good quality onions. In addition, the net yield must be good. As a grower you can get a high yield from the field, but in the end you get paid for the yield upon delivery. Excellent quality and high net yield is the golden combination.

Steve McArthur – Vigour, New Zealand: “Ten years ago, the New Zealand onion industry was upgraded with the first large-scale planting of the Dutch-bred onion, Rhinestone. The onion yield for the growers has increased by more than 10% since then. Rhinestone leads the way in terms of reliability and quality, not only for growers, but also for others in the chain, such as exporters, packers and retailers.

Listening to local growers
Hazera’s breeders first listened to local growers. They created Rhinestone by combining local New Zealand genetics with the best genetics from other regions. The result: a hybrid with geographical adaptability, but also a long shelf life, high yield, great taste, firm bulbs and very good skin retention.

New Zealand plays an important role in filling the gap between the old and new season onions in Western Europe. Shipping onions for a journey across the equator for six to ten weeks requires an onion with many excellent qualities.
Rhinestone offers growers the certainty that they deliver quality to the other side of the world.

Climate and red onions
Other developments that Hazera is paying attention to are irrigation solutions and red onions. Pablo: “The climate is changing. We are conducting tests so that we can respond effectively to longer periods of drought or more precipitation.” Reinout continues: “And the market for red onions is growing. We are expanding our portfolio in all segments. Both in the short day and in the extra long day, with our latest introduction, for example, the Redrover. This extra long day red onion has a long shelf life and is very suitable for use in salads.”