Economic feasibility of locally grown plug transplants as an alternative to imported bare-root transplants in onions

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2006: $8,973.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Christine Hoepting
Cornell Cooperative Extension - Cornell Vegetable Program

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: onions


  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study, agricultural finance
  • Pest Management: chemical control, disease vectors, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, physical control, prevention, sanitation
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities

    Proposal abstract:

    The problem with onion growers importing bare-root transplants into New York is the risk of bringing in potentially devastating diseases of onions including Iris Yellow Spot Virus (IYSV) and Botrytis allii. IYSV is an emerging disease of onion in the United States and the world, which has not yet been detected in New York. Botrytis allii is the causal fungus of neck rot, a storage disease of onions that deems bulbs unmarketable. An alternative to imported contaminated bare-root transplants is using locally grown greenhouse plug transplants. Unfortunately, the price of greenhouse plug transplants is currently a major deterrent to onion growers. However, risking the introduction of a potentially devastating disease or increased frequency of storage rots that could drastically impact production is not sustainable to the most valuable ($42.5 million) vegetable crop in New York. The proposed project is a collaborative effort between an onion grower and an Extension Vegetable Specialist and will thoroughly investigate the economical feasibility of using locally grown plug transplants that are free of pests as an alternative to imported bare-root transplants that may be harboring IYSV and B. allii. These contaminants including onion thrips (which vector IYSV) will be quantified and differences in yield and bulb quality will be included in the economical analysis. The success of this project will result in statewide adoption of using locally grown plug transplants, which will also benefit the local economy.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    In this study, we will investigate the economic feasibility of using locally grown greenhouse plug transplants as an alternative to imported bare-root transplants. We will take into consideration all aspects of using the two types of transplants not just the initial price of the plants. Additionally, the expenses associated with shipping, labor, and use of equipment and pesticides, will be accounted for. Contaminants including onion thrips (which vector IYSV) and Botrytis allii will be quantified and differences in yield and bulb quality will be included in the economic analysis. This will be a collaborative project between a muck onion grower and a Cornell Cooperative Extension Vegetable Specialist. Results will be presented statewide. More grower cooperators will come on-board in future years of study as the industry strives to make the use of locally grown onion transplants economically feasible.

    This project will be the first endeavor of its kind in New York. Results from a small-plot research trial in Oklahoma showed that sweet onions grown from greenhouse plug transplants had significantly higher yield than those grown from bare-root transplants, because bare-root transplants are less uniform in size and require a period following planting in which to begin re-growth. An economic comparison of growing the two transplant types was not assessed in this study. Another aspect of using plug transplants that may be cost effective which has not been investigated is the rate of planting and labor required to plant. Plug transplants are spaced 3 plants per plug every 8 inches while bare-root plants are spaced 1 plant every 4 inches. This project will build on the findings of the transplant inspection conducted by Hoepting et al. in 2005 where onion thrips and B. allii were found on imported bare-root transplants by following these contaminants throughout the growing season and into storage to determine their economic impact.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.