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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

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 8/24/29:
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?

Resources and Guides for Growing Potato Onions


project update by
sagescrub
Tuesday, July 21, 2020 - 06:19

I am in my first season growing a trial of these potato onions from seed. So far they are holding up well in the heat (90-100F days) and some of the onions are getting quite nice size. At least one has pink skin. I am just waiting for them to start dropping over and dry to harvest for storage.

Having never grown potato onions before I did some research on how to best harvest and grow them perennially and found some amazing info. I am now way more excited about this perennial onion and looking forward to grow much more next year! I am sharing a few links below in case it helps out other folks here.

The Historic Potato Onion: A compilation of early references
https://turkeysong.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/402/

Resurrecting the Potato Onion
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jnqst7-9YfWFovhqjARtcZZVJC0TPzKsow_…

Potato Onion Facts Booklet
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1tlnAG6epHBAd4SLOA4zlHa3EnA7r0OaZy6N…

Sold out on the EFN store


project update by
mail_1
Saturday, June 27, 2020 - 04:58

I was going to order these onions on the shop, but they're all sold out !

If anybody has seeds and is willing to mail them to Montreal in Canada, let me know.

Cross pollination


project update by
dave
Saturday, June 6, 2020 - 04:14

This may be a dumb question, but intended for the project organizer. Your onions are in their second year and are flowering, I also have adjacent to them another planting of Matador F-1 shallots and some other yellow potato onions I've been growing for a few years. They are all blooming and close enough for some cross pollination, if I don't remove some flowers. Do you want to allow these other Allium cepas to potentially cross with yours or not. I'm not a breeder so it makes no difference to me. If you like I can de-flower the others, but it will need to happen in the next few days. What would you like?
Dave

Egyptian Walking Onion


project update by
chonas009
Thursday, May 28, 2020 - 03:51

I have some of this planted in my garden, would this be of value for crossbreeding? I just joined today, so let me know how else I can be of service.

Already going into dormancy in July


project update by
Elderberry
Thursday, August 8, 2019 - 11:11

Most of my potato onions were already going into dormancy in July. A few are still a little bit green. I harvested most of them, and keep them dry. I hope they survive till spring.
I left a few in the garden, where they have overhead irrigation. I hope they do not rot.

Am I the only one where they finish growing so early? Or has it to do with the really hot weather this year?

Seed from Dave


project update by
jeff.rosen
Friday, June 28, 2019 - 12:13

Dave I would love to get some seed. I would be happy to pay.
Thanks
Jeff

Anyone want some seeds?


project update by
dave
Friday, June 28, 2019 - 02:53

I’ve been growing these potato onions since I bought them from Maine Potato Lady in 2016. She says nothing about their provenance. They are good keepers but they are small. They are fall planted, along with my garlic, and are currently flowering profusely. I assume they will produce a great yield of seeds this summer, (haven’t paid any attention in the past). If anyone is interested in some of these seeds just let me know. Since aphahn’s seeds weren’t planted until this spring, these haven’t crossed with his.
Dave

My experience growing out Green Mountain Multipliers


project update by
abigailjoyg
Wednesday, February 20, 2019 - 06:16

I have been growing these in NW Oregon for the past four seasons. I originally got the seed from seedrenaissance.com and started with over 100 seeds. I didn't have any reds, but a mix of mostly brown/yellow and white of various shapes. The darker onions have proved to be much more vigorous and have stood up better to my selection.

I store them inside through the winter on a kitchen shelf and only plant out bulbs that make it through to spring without sprouting or getting soft in my conditions (8+ months stored at room temperature and exposed to light). They are planted in April and I generally harvest in August. They have been one of my most hardy and reliable crops, despite some neglect.
Really my main selection criteria has been storability. This has favored more uniformly round onions with skinny stems. Every year I have grown these, a large portion went to seed and none of those bulbs were saved to plant out the next year. Even my fourth year (2018) after selecting out everything that flowered, many still flowered. I ended up just yanking them and leaving them in the garden where apparently many have survived the winter and are starting to grow. I included some photos of what I currently have stored as well as what has been left in the garden overwinter. There are a few clumps of small onions that I missed when harvesting! Only a small subset of the seeds I originally started with have reliably multiplied without flowering. I haven't saved any seed yet and would suggest that bulbs be grown out for at least a few years before collecting seeds to select against a strain of onions that produce seed every year (and make poor storage/multiplier onions). This year I may try to select out bulbs that don't multiply or only divide into two. My ideal multiplier divides into 3-6 medium onions. The ones that divide into 8-12 bulbs are just two small to bother peeling in my opinion. The very large onions don't store as well and only come from single or double divisions. I will try and save some seed this year if anyone is interested in adding seeds from my selection into the mix.