Onion crops have been under cultivation for the past 5000 years in India. Currently, India is the second-largest producer of onions in the world. The onions we grow are popular for their pungency and are available round the year. There are three onion growing seasons in India – kharif (July-August), late kharif (October-November), and rabi (December-January). In this article, we will learn about the popular onion farming methods used in India.
Farming techniques used for growing onions
Onions can be grown from seeds, seedlings, and bulblets (explained below). Below are three of the most popular onion farming techniques used in India.
1. Nursery raising
Nursery management and transplanting are the two important processes involved in growing onions. Onion seeds are usually sown on raised beds of 1.2 m width and 3-4 m length. After these seeds turn into seedlings (in 40-45 days), they get transplanted to a different area to grow into onions. 0.05 hectares of nursery beds can generate enough seedlings to transplant in one hectare.
The distance between the beds is kept to 30 cm at least, so that water can flow uniformly and extra water can drain out. The reason why flatbeds are not recommended for nursery raising is that when water moves from one end to the other, there is a possibility of seeds being washed away.
2. Raising small bulblets
This technique is usually adopted to meet the demand for green onions. Onion varieties such as Agrifound Dark Red, Arka Kalyan, Baswant 780, etc., are raised one season in advance to create small onion bulblets. Mid-January to February is usually the best time for sowing seeds for getting quality bulblets. However, the exact season and time depend largely on the region where the seeds are grown. Onion bulblets are kept in the nursery beds till April-May. The harvested bulblets are hung in a well-ventilated space and stored this way until they are planted. These are then transplanted during the kharif season.
3. Direct sowing
This method of growing onions is practiced in parts of the Chitradurga, Bellary, and Dharwar districts of Karnataka. Seeds of big onions are sown directly in lines (30 cm apart) and thinned later to allow proper space for the development of bulbs. After sowing, hand hoeing is done so that the seeds can reach a depth of 2.5-3 cm. Immediately after this, they are lightly irrigated. Weeding is highly recommended within 10 days of sprouting.
Prepping field for planting onions
Apart from the top three onion farming techniques, here are some rules to keep in mind while prepping the fields for onion cultivation.
- Fields need to be ploughed 5-6 times to avoid any kind of soil clods and debris.
- Organic manure, equivalent to 75kg/hectare, should be applied after ploughing.
- Beds of appropriate sizes should be prepared after leveling.
- Flatbeds should be avoided to prevent waterlogging during kharif or rainy season. Waterlogging leads to a disease named Anthracnose which can be devastating to onions during the kharif season.
- Broad bed furrows (BBF) of 15 cm height and 45 cm width should be formed to achieve proper spacing and population density. It is suitable for both drip and sprinkler irrigation. This is the best method for kharif onion production as the excess water drains out through the furrows.
All the methods mentioned above have been used successfully by onion farmers across the country. In fact, India has a stellar record when it comes to onion production and you can view the infographic of the top onion producing states here.
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