Back in September, the National Onion Association announced that $4 million had been awarded from the Specialty Crops Research Initiative to combat bacterial disease in onions. In addition to the $4 million from the USDA, onion growers are contributing more than half of the $4 million in matching funds, bringing the total research amount to more than $8 million.
And the school leading the research effort is Washington State University.
Lindsey du Toit, principal investigators for the project and professor at WSU, said what makes this effort unique is the amount of grant money coming from the growers themselves. She said with these funds, researcher will help develop ways to test onion varieties to see which ones have some resistance to these pathogens.
“We won’t be doing breeding, but we’ll be helping breeders develop ways of screening varieties and screening genetic material, to identify better resistance to the different bacteria that can cause diseases of onion. And then the other part of the project is focused on actual management practices. So, we’ll be doing a series of trials looking at things like irrigation practices that growers use.”
du Toit noted researchers will work a lot with Columbia Basin growers. Other research institutions include the University of Georgia, Cornell University, Colorado State University, Michigan State University, New Mexico State University, Oregon State University, Pennsylvania State University, Texas A&M University, University of Idaho, and the University of California.
For years, more than 15 bacterial species have cost the onion industry millions of dollars in losses annually nationwide.
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