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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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State's Onion Industry Reeks of Success

LAS CRUCES -- Onions may lack the tradition of wheat or the mystique of chile, but they are a growing crop in New Mexico. The state has gained ground nationally in onion production over the last 15 years, said Joe Corgan, onion breeder with New Mexico State University's Agricultural Experiment Station.


"For the year, we produce less than 10 percent of the national supply," Corgan said. "But during June and July, when New Mexico is at its peak harvest, we have weeks where we provide more than half of all shipments in the United States."

Improved onion varieties have helped the state'sgrowers increase both their acreage and yields. NMSU's onion breeding program, led by Corgan, has released six new varieties in the last year. Each has special characteristics, whether it's being perfect for onion rings or allowing growers to plant from seed in the fall instead of transplants.

"These varieties help us provide windows of opportunity by filling in the season so that our growers have a continuity of harvest through the whole harvesting period," Corgan said.

From late May through mid-August, onion shipments out of the state are almost continuous.

With its long growing season and dry climate, New Mexico's onion industry is poised to keep growing in the coming years.

Corgan, who retired this month, will continue his onion work part-time. He hopes that development of more sweet and hybrid varieties will help expand the market and taste for New Mexico onions.