Alappuzha: The price of onion is skyrocketing and the item is now out-of-reach for the common man. However, agricultural scientists suggest that onion can be grown in the kitchen garden successfully.
Farmers in Kerala have been averse to cultivating the vegetable as it is not economical in the state. The reasons are steep price fluctuation and intensive labour as the crop is highly susceptible to weeds.
In Kerala, the only place where onion is grown commercially is Attappady in Palakkad district.
A few farmers at Thrissur and Kanjikuzhi in Alappuzha have carried out trials with the crop. Recently, an onion crop was harvested in Pathanamthitta also. The ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) centre at Pathanamthitta had tried the crop inspired by the success achieved by Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Thrissur.
Method of cultivation
The ideal period to cultivate onion is from November to February, as the crop needs cool weather with little rain. Any open space can be chosen for the farming activities during winter but fertile and porous soil is required.
Work on arranging the nursery can be started in September.
Onion seeds have to be soaked for one day, kept in the open under humid conditions for the next 2-3 days and sown on a tray with soil. For a good yield, 30 g of seeds are needed for planting on a plot measuring one cent. After the saplings grow to 6-8 weeks, they can be planted by November.
The saplings should be placed in rows which are 15-20 cm apart and each sapling has to be 10 cm from the other.
Grow bags can also be used.
Before planting, some fertilizers have to be added to the soil. They include 10 bags of cow dung, 500 g urea, 1 kg ‘Rajphos’ and 500 g Potash for a cent of the land. Organic fertilizer alone can also be applied instead of these items.
The crop can be harvested after four months. When the plant is ready for harvest, the onion could be seen at the base. After the leaves start to shrivel, onion can be reaped. This is done by pulling each plant out of the soil. In case the soil is stuck to the onion bulb, the outer scales have to be discarded.
After harvest, pile up the onion bulbs along with the leaves for three days. Afterwards, cut the leaf portion one centimetre away from the bulbs, which have to be spread under mild sunlight to dry before being used as food.
The onion varieties suitable for Kerala are Agrifound dark red and Arka Kalyan. COON-5, a shallot variety, is also recommended for cultivation in the state.
Onion plant is susceptible to dryness of the leaf tip, leading to crop loss. This problem can be avoided by carrying out the cultivation in porous soil and applying Pseudomonas every 15 days.