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Onion is an ancient cultivated vegetable which originated in the central Asia. Modern archeologist, botanist and historians are unable to determine exact time and place of its first cultivation (because this vegetable is perishable and its cultivation leaves little to no trace), however some written records enable us to paint a very interesting picture about its origins.
There are two schools of thoughts regarding the home of onion cultivation, and both looked at the period 5,500 years ago in Asia. Some scientists believe that onion was first domesticated in central Asia and others in Middle East by Babylonian culture in Iran and West Pakistan. Those are based on ancient remnants of food cultivation that survived the tooth of time, but many believe that organized cultivation started much earlier, thousands of years before writing and sophisticated tools were created.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe entered into Dark and Middle ages where main sources of food for entire population were beans, cabbage, and onions. During that time, onion was heavily used as both food and medicinal remedy. It was also often more valuable than money. With the arrival of Renaissance and the new trade routes of the Golden Age of Sail, onions were carried to all four corners of the world, enabling European colonist and native people from newfound continents to grow this incredible vegetable on countless soil types. According to some records, onions were the first vegetable that was ever planted by the first colonists who landed in North America.
Onion is an important bulb vegetable in the Philippines as it is one of the widely used condiments in the traditional cuisine. The onion being cultivated in the country is represented by three types: the shallot or multiplier onion (A. cepa cv.gr. ascalonicum), the big yellow-skinned type represented by ‘Yellow Granex’, and the medium-sized purple-skinned type represented by ‘Red Creole’.
The Central Luzon and Ilocos Region are the top onion producers having a 49.82% and 31.38% of the national production, respectively. In Central Luzon, Nueva Ecija is the leading producer of onions accounting for 99.8 % of the region’s production and 49.76% of the national production, while in Ilocos Region, Ilocos Norte is the number one onion producers providing about 50% of the region’s production. MIMAROPA and Cagayan Valley produces about 12% and 6% of the national production respectively.
In the three provinces surveyed (Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija), 97.67 of onion farmers were males at an average age of 48 years. Most of them had formal schooling and have an average of 11 years of experience in onion production. Majority or 92 percent reported that farming was their main occupation. Average farm size was 1.147 hectares and the average area cultivated to onion was 0.462 hectare. About 32.33 percent of the farms were tenanted, 31.67 percent were fully owned by operators, 12.67 percent were leased, 11.33 percent were owned like possession other than CLT/CLOA, 6 percent were held under CLT/CLOA, 4.67 percent were mortgaged and 1.33 percent were rent free (PSA, 2014).
One cropping per year was adopted by all onion farmers in Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija and Mindoro Occidental. In Ilocos Norte, 79.73 percent reported one cropping and the rest had two croppings a year. On the other hand, the practice of two croppings was common among 77.46 percent of the onion farmers in Ilocos Sur and the remaining 22.54 percent had one cropping (PSA-BAS, 2013).
According to Philippine Statistics Authority – Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (PSA– BAS) conducted Costs and Returns Survey (CRS) of Onion Production in August 2013 that the planting of onion usually took place during the months of October to January while harvesting was conducted mostly from March to April. By province, October was the planting month of 59.15 percent of the onion farmers in Ilocos Sur and 40.54 percent in Ilocos Norte. There were 40.54 percent in Pangasinan and 56.34 percent in Nueva Ecija who planted onion during December. In Mindoro Occidental, planting was done in January as reported by 61.33 percent of the onion farmers. Planting of other crops after onion was a common practice of onion farmers. Across the provinces covered in the survey, about 84.11 percent planted palay and 19.73 percent cultivated corn. There were few who reported planting of vegetables, condiments, legumes and nuts, tobacco and watermelon. Cultivation of palay after onion was reported by all the sample onion farmers in Ilocos Sur and Mindoro Occidental. This practice was reported by 91.89 percent in Ilocos Norte and 73.24 percent in Nueva Ecija. Those who planted corn were 37.84 percent in Pangasinan, 22.54 percent each in Ilocos Sur and Nueva Ecija, and 16.22 percent in Ilocos Norte. Planting of vegetables was usually adopted by 23.94 percent in Nueva Ecija and 12.16 percent in Ilocos Norte.
In the production of onion, the planting materials used were bulb for multiplier onion and seeds for red onion. Across the provinces surveyed, the average quantity of seeds of red onion used was 5.04 kilograms per hectare. Seeding rates per hectare averaged 3.51 kilograms in Mindoro Occidental, 5.32 kilograms in Nueva Ecija and 6.87 kilograms in Pangasinan. For multiplier onion, an average of 642.27 kilograms of bulb per hectare was used as planting materials. This ranged from 618.30 kilograms in Ilocos Norte to 656.81 kilograms in Ilocos Sur. As to the source of planting materials, bigger quantities of the red onion seeds were reportedly purchased while bulbs of multiplier onion were mostly own produced by the farmers (PSA-BAS, 2013).
Across the five (5) provinces covered, cultivation of red onion was mentioned by 60.27 percent of the onion farmers. Multiplier onion was planted by 39.73 percent. By province, farmers in Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija and Mindoro Occidental planted solely the red onion variety. Growing of multiplier onion was reported by all the farmers in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur (PSA-BAS, 2013).
Direct seeding of multiplier onion variety was practiced by 37 percent of farmers across the representative provinces. This method was adopted by 13.15 percent of farmers growing the red onion variety. On the other hand, transplanting was commonly done by 47.12 percent of the farmers who planted red onion. Only few at 2.74 percent did transplanting of multiplier onion.
In Mindoro Occidental, transplanting was the only method used in planting red onion. This was reported by 94.37 percent in Nueva Ecija and 40.54 percent in Pangasinan. The use of direct seeding for red onion was noted by 59.46 percent of the farmers in Pangasinan.
For the multiplier onion variety, all farmers in Ilocos Sur performed the direct seeding method. In Ilocos Norte, there were 86.49 percent who practiced direct seeding method and 13.51 percent used the transplanting method. (PSA-BAS, 2013)
The major source of onion seeds was the traders with 53.97 percent of the onion farmers reporting. There were 29.86 percent who obtained seeds from their own production. Input dealer was cited by 9.04 percent and cofarmers by 4.93 percent. Only few sourced their seeds from seed growers and cooperatives. Traders were the primary source of onion seeds of 95.95 percent in Pangasinan and 84 percent in Mindoro Occidental. Seeds from own produced were reported by 64.86 percent of the farmers in Ilocos Norte and 85.92 percent in Ilocos Sur. Some 29.58 percent in Nueva Ecija availed seeds from input dealers. Onion seeds is black in color, embryo is endospermic, crescent shaped. According to Hazera Seeds of Growth there are 250-400 seeds per gram.
Seedbed should be located in a well-drained, friable soil with good water holding capacity and high organic matter content. If soil pH is lower than 5.8, lime application is necessary at the rate of 3 tons/ha applied one month before transplanting. Land should be prepared by thorough plowings and harrowing. Level and pulverize the soil to facilitate formation of beds (1 meter wide and 20 m long). Prior to seed sowing, sterilize the beds by burning rice straw on top or by pouring boiling water to prevent pest and disease infestation. Broadcast chicken manure or compost at the rate of 10 t/ha combined with 10 bags 14-14-14. Space 10-15 cm between rows and sow seeds evenly in a row at 5-6 seeds/inch with seeding depth of ½ inch. Approximately 25 grams of seeds is needed per square meter. Irrigation should be applied adequately in the field right after seed sowing. Seeds will germinate at about 7-10 days after sowing and are ready for transplanting 45 days after sowing.
On the average, the size of onion farms in the provinces covered was 0.71 hectare. This area ranged from 0.26 hectare in Ilocos Norte to 1.48 hectares in Mindoro Occidental.
For this survey, the area planted/harvested of the focus parcel of onion farm averaged 0.49 hectares. The biggest area planted and harvested to onion was noted in Nueva Ecija at 0.79 hectare. It was smallest in Ilocos Norte at 0.17 hectare.
By variety, area planted/harvested to red onion averaged 0.66 hectares. The average area cultivated to red onion was 0.79 hectare in Nueva Ecija, 0.71 hectare in Mindoro Occidental and 0.48 hectare in Pangasinan. For multiplier onion variety, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur reported an average area of 0.17 hectare and 0.29 hectare, respectively (PSA-BAS, 2013).
In the five (5) provinces covered in the survey, majority of the onion farmers at 95.07 percent were males. Onion farmers in Ilocos Norte were all males. This constituted 90.67 percent in Mindoro Occidental. Average age of onion farmers was 49 years old. The oldest group of farmers was found in Nueva Ecija with an average age of 51 years. Farmers in Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Pangasinan had an average age of 50 years. The youngest group of farmers was noted in Mindoro Occidental with an average of 46 years.
By age group, onion farmers belonging to 41 to 50 years and 51 to 60 years comprised the biggest proportion at 29.59 percent each. Only 3.29 percent were more than 70 years old. Among the provinces surveyed, Nueva Ecija had the highest proportion of onion farmers belonging to age group 51 to 60 years at 36.62 percent and the least proportion at 1.41 percent were more than 70 years of age. Those aged 41 to 50 years were noted higher in Mindoro Occidental at 33.33 percent.
There was 31.78 percent of onion farmers who finished high school education, 24.11 percent completed elementary level and 9.32 percent were college graduates. In Pangasinan, about 51.35 percent of onion farmers were high school graduates. Those who earned college degree were biggest in Ilocos Sur at 16.90 percent. About 29.58 percent of the onion farmers in Nueva Ecija attained elementary education.
Farming experience of onion farmers averaged 16 years. This ranged from 11 years in Mindoro Occidental to 22 years in Nueva Ecija. Onion farmers with farming experience of less than 11 years accounted for 44.38 percent and those with more than 30 years comprised 10.68 percent. The biggest proportions of onion farmers with less than 11 years of experience were reported in Ilocos Sur at 53.52 percent and Mindoro Occidental at 64 percent. In Nueva Ecija, 30.99 percent had 21 to 30 years of farming experience.
Crop farming was the main occupation of 93.15 percent of the onion farmers. Meanwhile, a few of the onion farmers at 3.84 percent worked as officials of the government and special interest organizations, corporate executives, managing proprietors and supervisors. Some 1.64 percent were plant and machine operators/assemblers. Across provinces surveyed, Ilocos Sur reported the biggest percentage of onion farmers at 98.59 percent whose main occupation was crop farming. Ilocos Norte had the least proportion at 85.14 percent. In Ilocos Norte, about 8.11 percent of the onion farmers were government officials, managers and supervisors.
The incidence of pests and diseases was the primary production problem encountered by 50.96 percent of the onion farmers. Bad weather/calamities and high costs of inputs were reported by 41.64 percent and 38.36 percent of onion farmers, respectively. There were 27.95 percent who were constrained by the lack of capital.
Those who reported problem on pests and diseases were biggest in Mindoro Occidental at 64 percent and in Ilocos Sur at 60.56 percent. Likewise, in Mindoro Occidental, there were 69.33 percent of onion farmers who cited problem on high cost of inputs. Bad weather condition was a major production problem among 63.51 percent of the onion farmers in Pangasinan. Lack of capital was mentioned by 38 to 45 percent of the onion farmers in Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan and Mindoro Occidental.
The Philippine Statistics Authority – Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (PSA– BAS) conducted Costs and Returns Survey (CRS) of Onion Production in August 2013 found out that across the representative provinces, there were 86.58 percent of the onion farmers who recommended price support to encourage the production of onion. Financial support was cited by 49.59 percent while regulation on the price of farm inputs was mentioned by 47.40 percent. Some 28.49 percent suggested provision of new/modern farming technologies. About 0.55 to 8.49 percent reported addressing environmental concerns, implementing land reform program, provision of infrastructure facilities, soil testing analysis and improvement of irrigation services.
Muhammad Arshadul Hoque and Ma Wohab Drum Seeder. Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute created a machine in Fig.1 with several parts like frame, wheel, drum, furrow opener, and furrow closer. The test results of the drum seeder were: seed drum width is 600 mm, depth of sowing 10-15 mm, diameter of the holes in the seeder was 3 mm to release onion seed easily, six rows with 100 mm spacing at seed rate of 4 kg/ha, a field capacity of 0.08 ha/hr, sowing time of 2 man-day/ha and a yield of onion is 10,660 kg/ha.
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