Gardeners’ help sought in solving issue affecting garlic, onions

Alberta Agriculture’s horticulture branch is trying to sleuth out why some onion and garlic crops have reduced yield, poor storability and overall poor performance.

Horticulturalist Rob Spencer said the department is asking home, market and commercial gardeners to report issues in an effort to get to the bottom of the problem.

He said one cause is aster yellows, the disease that damaged canola crops a couple years ago.

However, it’s not the only factor causing problems.

Fungal diseases such as white rot, fusarium basal plate rot and embellisia blotch can all cause problems in garlic and onions. Parasitic soil worms are also a concern.

“We’re seeing poor yield, early decline or death, or in some cases the problem carries on into storage,” Spencer said. “We want to figure out what is happening.”

Gardeners are asked to report and collect plants with suspicious symptoms as the first step to finding out what diseases and insects are hitting the onion and garlic crops. It’s hoped solutions will follow.

Spencer doesn’t have an accurate estimate of the amount of garlic grown in the province, but it is prevalent.

“Everybody has got some.”

About 1,000 acres of onions are grown commercially in the province, as well as small amounts of onions on Hutterite colonies and in market gardens.

Growers who want to submit samples are asked to contact Spencer at the Alberta Ag-Info Centre for collecting and shipping instructions.

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