Irati onion has the bit between its teeth in Zimbabwe

The picture shows Josh, Joel and Anita Laubscher standing in a 3.4 ha field of Irati onion 32 days after transplanting. The crop was sown on 24 February and transplanted on 5 April (40 days).

Top dressing occurred 14 days before the photograph (18 days after transplanting). As can be seen from the colour of the sturdy plants in the photograph, the crop now really has the bit between its teeth and is going like an American Quarter Horse.

The width of the beds is 1.2 m and counts averaged 112 plants/metre of bed. This gives a population of 746,704 plants/ha. At the spacing used of 150 m x 70 mm, the bulbs will weigh about 150 g each with a potential yield of 112 tonnes/ha.

At the time of the count (71 days) the crop was dark green, and the diameter of the embryonic bulb of the seedlings was 10 – 12mm.

On the basis of these parameters, it was decided not to top-dress the crop. With Irati’s huge potential yields, Josh’s limiting factors will not be in the growing, but in the harvesting, storage and marketing of the crop. Any thick necks will be disastrous.

Josh has been appraised of the situation and even now is marshalling the equipment to timeously harvest and store the crop for marketing.

Marketing of different crops is becoming a problem in Zimbabwe, and a value chain analysis is now overdue.

Josh is just one of a generation of upcoming Zimbabwean farmers who can apply themselves to detail and are always looking for new ventures. With good seed and good agronomic techniques, these farmers are achieving yields as good as anything worldwide.

Josh is one of Charter Seeds’ Festive triallists in 2022, as he intends to supply the Zimbabwe market all year round with onions.

In future he will be growing the Ngwazi variety, sowing from 29 January to 2 February.

Irati will be sown from late February to early March, and this will be followed by Festive sown in July, transplanted in August and harvested from late December to early January.

Finally, Goblin will be sown from late September to early October and harvested in February and March.

Charter Seeds looks forward to working with the likes of Josh on the further development of onions and other crops.


Josh, Joel and Anita Laubscher standing in a 3.4 ha field of Irati onions.

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