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Perennial Dividing Onion Diversification

A long term project to bring back the diversity in potato onions and other perennial dividing onions by growing out seed when it is available
Description

There's been a lamentable loss of potato onion varieties over the past century, such that old heirlooms are now incredibly hard to come by. This project hopes to help bring that diversity back.

Researcher background
I'm constantly experimenting with and trying to develop new varieties for my challenging climate. Shallots and potato onions are a favorite of my family, and I was lucky enough to have a mass flowering and great seed set in 2018. Now I need help growing out it out and evaluating the results.
Are you seeking volunteer growers or other types of volunteers?
Yes, seeking volunteer growers
How many volunteers do you need?
1000
What will you ask volunteers to do?
Grow out potato/dividing onion seeds for multiple years and store the onions over each winter. Seed is available for purchase from the Experimental Farm Network seed store (www.EFNSeeds.com). Or if you have your own, by all means join us and bring more diversity!
You are asked to:

Share information about the diversity and traits of your onions.

Select notable strains for keeping ability, productivity, size and/or color, and propagate these selections.

These onions do not flower and set seed regularly, if yours do, return a good portion of the seed to the project.
Is this a multi-year project?
Yes
Can volunteers expect to be able to keep some germplasm (seeds, bulbs, cuttings, spores, etc) at the close of the project?
Yes, of course
Researcher Location

80031
United States

Project Updates

2021 results / 2022 Goals


project update by
nathanpierce
Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - 04:17

My goal this year (2nd year growing potato onions), was to produce seeds from those that were started in 2020. In 2020, I spring planted about 24-25 surviving seedlings that were harvested in August. Then fall planted in October, 2020 at the same time I plant my garlic. About 1/3 of them did not emerge in 2021.

About 6 of them flowered and after cutting the flower stalks/stems and leaving in a glass of water for a few weeks, was able to dry the flower heads and collect seeds.

Yields of the 2020 plants were low, but it gives me seeds to start with in 2022.
I also planted about 15 more seedlings in 2021 and will use these and the 2020 bulbs in 2022 to try to produce better yields. I am thinking of planting about half in the fall and half in the spring to compare how they do.

Segregation from both batches has been ~50% with varying degrees of red or pink, and ~45% yellows. There was 1 white bulb (~2%)

My original seeds were from the Cultivariable Participatory Breeding Project (OSSI pledged), so they are not directly from EFN, but I believe EFN was probably a contributing source.

I am in Rhode Island (USA), on the edge of zone 6b/7a.

Some Success in 2021


project update by
rmichell145
Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - 02:07

I bought some seeds from EFN back in January 2021:
I am in zone 7 (Maryland). I had pretty poor germination, only about 10 plants sprouted.
-Planted them indoors on 05 February
-Transplanted outside on 09 March
-Harvested 8 plants on 16 July
(Note: They did survive quite a bit of onion maggot pressure in the late spring).
There is definitely some variation in size, color and shape of the resulting bulbs. See photo. They are not huge, the largest is about 1.5 inches in diameter.
I plan to plant these in the ground later this month to overwinter them and see what happens in the spring. If I do get more bulbs or seeds, I'd be happy to share. I will keep you posted.

Need Advice on when to collect Potato Onion Seed


project update by
fts
Friday, July 9, 2021 - 06:37

Hi all,
I have 8 large potato onion seed heads and am trying to figure out how long I need to leave them, some of them are trying to fall over. Currently the seeds inside the seed capsules are black but very juicy. Can I bring them in now or do I need to leave them outside until the seed is dry and the capsules begin to split. I live in a humid, high rain area in East TN. I did bring in several other seed heads that had fallen over, but the seed in them does not appear to be maturing. If they dry down I will do germination tests to see if they are live.

Attaching a photo. The lavender seed heads in the background are elephant garlic.

Flowering


project update by
sk.pavlickova
Sunday, May 30, 2021 - 05:46

My shallots seems to all be blowing to flower. Sante, dutch yellow potato, dutch red, and french red. They were planted on Halloween. NY zone 6bish
Very dry spring, turned very hot. Last day or two is freakishly cold and very rainy. Hope they don't rot. I am disappointed they are mostly going to flower. I was hoping only a couple would and I would have most for storage. Will probably caramelize and freeze after harvest. Will be interesting to see a hybrid of yellow potato and a red shallot. The first shallots I grew were french red last year. I harvested shallots smaller than what I planted, unfortunately. Hope this year will be better.

The assorted bloomers are in the bed on the left. Grey Griselle on the right. They certainly look different in color and growth pattern. GG never stood up straight like the other shallots. They are also lighter green, thinner leafed, and longer leafed. They also constantly divide as they grow. Regular shallots I see, if they come up with 6 plants, you harvest 6 plants. GG if they come up with 6 plants, every few weeks they keep multiplying. One GG has 41 plants!!

Hello from Wales, United Kingdom


project update by
claire_cater
Sunday, May 30, 2021 - 08:09

Hi everyone, just got my hands on 4 varieties of potato onion and really excited to grow them for the first time. Looking forward to seeing people’s progress. I’m in Mid Wales (8a) growing zone.

Multipliers from Spring 2020


project update by
maryo'
Friday, May 21, 2021 - 01:56

From the packet of seeds planted in Spring 2020, six survived in hoophouse. They are sending up what looks like flower stalks from the middle of fronds, not from the bottom of the bulb itself. None have more than a few fronds. Don't really know if I should do anything but let them sit, as opposed to mulching or cultivating. Hoping to bring them all the way to seed for replanting and sharing.

From Virginia


project update by
adrian8231999
Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 03:01

Hi everyone! I joined this project and would love to assist with growing out and testing these onions, does anyone have any seeds or bulbs of these onions available?

2021 end of April Update


project update by
fts
Tuesday, April 27, 2021 - 02:08

5 of the 6 potato onions that I had started from seed have grown well and each is multilplying into 4 or more onions. Better news is that some of them are forming flower scapes. If they actually produce flowers and seed I might have some to share here. I will keep you all posted.

The seed I started with came from Kelly Winterton.

Hello


project update by
greencannons8
Tuesday, April 13, 2021 - 11:40

Hello all, new to the network 😊 Very exciting concept! Is this project still active? Would love to participate, I have grown potato onions successfully in the past and grow a number of different types of perennial onions. I'm in zone 4a, latitude 60 (Alaska), snow is starting to melt here so it would be great get my hands on some seeds quick, as we have a pretty short, sunny growing season here. Also, if there is any participant that would be open to sharing bulbs that they would like trialed up here let me know and I can cover shipping costs. Thanks!

Dylan's green mountan multiplier


project update by
dylanjakematheson
Sunday, March 14, 2021 - 09:06

I was sad to have only been able to get one packet of seeds from efn this spring. Germination of my Andy's green mountan multiplier was poor less than 50 percent compared to the onions in the next flat over under the same conditions, but I look forward to what they will do this summer.

Onions making their appearance, year 2


project update by
sagescrub
Sunday, February 7, 2021 - 06:46

Last summer my potato onions kept growing quite late into summer. Since I wasn't planning to eat any, I just let them keep going because they hadn't shown signs of dying back yet and a good number of them started splitting/dividing at their sections. After harvesting and curing them I divided those that had split into more than one section and ended up with more seed onions. I was surprised by how large many of the onions got in their first year from seed (baseball size). After curing, I planted them all out in November, mulched them with 6" of horse manure + wood shavings. Since then that mulch shrank by half and the onions are just now making their appearance through it. I'm in zone 7b ish. Looking forward to see how they do this season and crossing my fingers for some flowers.

Now to this Project but not to Potato Onions


project update by
fts
Sunday, January 10, 2021 - 09:01

Hello All
Not sure where I heard about potato onions, probably from Steven Edholm videos on SkillCult.
Found out about Kelly Winterton and in 2017 ordered two different strains of potato onion seed (SSE & GM) from him. Have had difficulty growing out this see, though germination was pretty good. Currently have in the ground 6 potato onions from 3 plants I planted last year from these seeds, will attach photo. I have definitely had problems with onions while in storage.

This year I soaked all my alliums in 10%bleach solution as recommended by Kelley Winterton, to combat fungal diseases. Details are near the bottom of his growing log, here is the link to it. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QEJ7PBA1zyYPxDlfYtMnSPoZzQdyowK77cL…

I am growing in East Tennessee and deal with a lot of fungal diseases in alliums. Other alliums I grow are garlic, walking onions, perennial leeks(similar to Delft), Elephant Garlic and more.

I'm going to purchase some seeds from this project as I would like be working with more than 3 different sets of genetics on this.

Multiplier onions


project update by
lepac
Saturday, December 5, 2020 - 09:33

Mine have been in the ground for 2 growing seasons, no offsets yet. Still dealing w weed pressures but this year we got the permaculture beds dressed w manure and wood chips. Looking forward to seeing how the surviving plants do next year,

Dave's grow out report


project update by
dave
Tuesday, September 8, 2020 - 05:22

This is my interim grow-out report for 2020. I have not harvested all the bulbs yet so this is just about the seeds.

I planted the following 10/12/19:
63 ea EFN Potato Onions, (grown from seed in 2019)
36 ea Matador F1 shallots, (grown from seed in 2019)
21 ea Potato Onions, grown from bulbs for last several years

I harvested seed heads 8/24/20:
253 seed heads EFN Potato Onions
118 seed heads Matador Shallots
132 seed heads my Potato Onions

So far I have threshed and cleaned these seeds:
10.4 ozs EFN Potato Onion seeds
9.7 ozs Matador Shallot seeds
5.3 ozs my Potato Onion seeds

There is also a single seed head from the EFN crop that has several bulbils on one side of the seed head.

These Plants were all grown within about 20 ft of each other, so may all be cross-pollinated.

There are still lots of seeds which have not released from the seed capsules yet, and I'm bored with trying further to release them. Since I'm not really trying to be a plant breeder other than about ½ oz of each that I plan to keep, what do you want me to do with everything else?

aphan, if you'd like to respond off forum, my address is: [email protected]

Seedling onions dividing in first year


project update by
sagescrub
Thursday, August 13, 2020 - 09:07

Mid August my potato onions grown from seed are now actually dividing in their first year. I didn't expect that! Now I'll have more planting stock for this fall. Attaching a few photos.

*Edit: Apparently the website isn't taking my photos.

Greetings!


project update by
michael.amato
Monday, August 10, 2020 - 07:18

Hello everyone!!

I am new to EFN and incredibly excited to start contributing to this community! I’m hoping to experiment with growing potato onions in southern New England zone 6b, however I cannot acquire any seed from the site anymore due to it selling out , I recognize it is late in the season but I was hoping to acquire some seed and get it ready for sowing this coming spring. If anyone has any seeds left over (less than 10 even) please feel free to Email/reach out to me at [email protected]!!! I am so very excited to have the opportunity to contribute to this long term project. I will also be growing Egyptian walking tree onions!!

Next Steps on Potato Onions?


project update by
rhizocity
Saturday, August 1, 2020 - 09:20

Hello!

I wanted to provide a visual on where our onions are at currently in zone 5b, Lincoln, NE. These were started from the seed from this project and have been in the ground since ~Apr 1.

There is quite a bit of diversity in here with the sizes and the yellow and white - there is also at least 1 red so far!

Should I wait for them to dry down more before harvesting? If I just leave them in the ground and give a good mulch for the winter, how likely are they to survive and will they just continue to divide next spring?

Any suggestions are welcome! Thanks!

Next Steps on Potato Onions


project update by
rhizocity
Saturday, August 1, 2020 - 09:20

Hello!

I wanted to provide a visual on where our onions are at currently in zone 5b, Lincoln, NE. These were started from the seed from this project and have been in the ground since ~Apr 1.

There is quite a bit of diversity in here with the sizes and the yellow and white - there is also at least 1 red so far!

Should I wait for them to dry down more before harvesting? If I just leave them in the ground and give a good mulch for the winter, how likely are they to survive and will they just continue to divide next spring?

Any suggestions are welcome! Thanks!

Potato Onion Bulblets


project update by
CWPates
Thursday, July 23, 2020 - 04:29

Not sure how often potato onions put out bulblets when they flower? I'll probably plant these in a separate area, and see if I get more of the same.
Did the original project seed have a chance to cross with anything?