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Onion cultivation in Scandinavia requires 100% quality

Last summer a study club of ten entrepreneurs from Flevoland along with people from De Groot and Slot and Bejo paid a two day visit to Denmark. The aim of the trip was to gain insight into the Danish cultivation system. The visit was organized by Seedcom, which in Denmark supplies seeds from De Groot and Slot and Bejo amongst others.

The country has about forty onion growers, who together grow about 1,500 HA of onions. The area is subdivided in 1,200 HA of seed onions, 200 HA of plant onions, 50 HA of onions grown under pressure and finally 50 HA of stem onions for the daily fresh market. On the program was a visit to Asalift, a machine builder for agrarian products, such as onion and carrot lifters and a visit to four different growers, who respectively grow 50 to 250 HA of onions, often together with a large number of vegetables, such as lettuce, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. The growers have organized their companies strictly. One of the companies visited supplies fresh onions to supermarkets daily. The onions are harvested by hand, cleaned and put into bundles. In the Netherlands this is done by those with stem onions. It was interesting, that almost all growers ready the products for the supermarkets themselves. Where we in the Netherlands prefer to outsource the processing almost always the Danish grower prefers to do this himself. About 85% of all Danish onions is grown for consumption in its own country, the remainder goes abroad. One of the entrepreneurs told, that he supplies a German supermarket chain all year round. When his own production is finished he tries to supplement first of all by the production of his own country before he starts to import.
Scandinavian people are only interested in one hundred percent quality. The end user is known and his requirements for quality are high. Therefore in general the growers give less nitrogen, harvest when greener and do not cut the leaves. When not folding the leaves one does not spread the koprot moulds, decreasing the risk of koprot. This trend we see in all Scandinavian countries.
Denmark is more and more directed towards the neighbouring countries. The most important market is for 80%, still the local supermarket. Also countries like Germany, Eastern Europe and Sweden are interested in the Danish product. The most important yellow varieties are Hytech, Armstrong, Hyskin and Hypark and the red Baron and Red Tide. The biggest concentration of onion growers you will find on the isle of Funen. Mainly seed onions are grown there. Various growers, however, grow plant onions as well in order to put their season forward in time.

Norway, because of its northern position which is hardly fit for the growing of seed onions. 90% of the onion area is plant onions. The first year plant onions are grown by the Norwegian growers themselves because they keep the borders closed as much as possible for the import of first year plant onions. The Norwegian market required an onion the size of 60 mm plus. These are stored till the beginning of July. On average the growers with plant onions have a surplus yield of 25-30% compared to seed onions without harm to the storage qualities. The differences in being early between the various varieties is totally different in Norway than in the Netherlands. Hypark is one of the earliest varieties and is growing into one of the most important varieties on the Norwegian market. As a result of an intensive promotion of onions, in which for instance chefs on TV mention the health effects of the onion, we notice that the local consumption in Norway increased by 25% during the last three years. The expectation is that this will increase further.

Sweden develops reasonably well. In addition to the traditional onion varieties also many transplant onions can be seen. Growers use these for peeling and to lengthen the harvest route. The growing areas are concentrated in the south of Sweden and on the isle of Öland. On this isle onions have been grown for generations. This is shown by the high pressure of sickness and white rot. Sweden contrary to Denmark is only directed towards the local market.

Finland, like Norway, because of its northern position uses almost only plant onions. But where in Norway almost exclusively plant onions of the Rijnsburger variety are used, in Finland the real plant onions are used, which do not need any preparation. Only in the far south of Finland it is possible to grow seed onions. Also, here, more and more of the foliage is not cut off.

In addition to traditional plant onions spring onions are also grown. These onions are mainly grown in tunnels. Very often traditionally in the same soil for tens of years already. Immediately after this cultivation the growers sow a green fertilizer and plough this into the soil when still green. This worked-in green fertilizer acts as an organic soil disinfectant. During the rotting of the green fertilizer, gasses are produced, which have a mildew killing effect. The harsh winters assist in the improvement of the soil structurel.
 Source: Uien Magazine, De Groot & Slot

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