By Clint Thompson
Vidalia onion producers were fortunate that Hurricane Ian skirted the Southeast Georgia region and spared this year’s seedlings that were in the ground. Instead of heavy rains and high winds that were felt in some areas in Florida, the Vidalia onion region received some winds but dodged any major impact, says Cliff Riner, Vidalia Onion Committee chairman.
“We had pretty steady wind but were real blessed to miss any kind of major impact,” Riner said. “I would say the majority of the seed beds are planted, probably even 90%. Those seedlings grow outside. They’re very small and tender right now, so they’re susceptible. We’re about (four) weeks away from transplanting. We’re growing our transplants out in seedbed fields. That’s always one of the most intensive times.
“We’re optimistic always but we’ll just have to keep our eye on them. There are a lot of plants still coming out of the ground. We’re about 90% planted but only 45% to 50% is up to about an inch and a half to two inches tall. Those others are just coming up. That’s where the rain would have been more impactful.”
A couple of inches of rainfall from Ian would have actually benefited the dry region, says Riner. They were more concerned with a heavier rain event in a short time period.
“We’re actually fairly dry. If it would have rained an inch or two of rain, we weren’t so much concerned about that as much as the three to five inches of rain at one time and the heavy rains associated with that,” Riner said. “We can’t really start over. A lot of this land we have to treat and get ready many weeks ahead of planting. If we would have lost any to heavy rains or erosion, that would have probably been a loss. We really couldn’t recoup in time. In terms of drowning, that is possible. But most growers pick their best fields, in terms of being well drained. Flooding wouldn’t have been much of a concern just because we plan not to have it that way. Sometimes a packing rain and this wind blowing these small plants around is not a good thing.
“What could have been and what everybody was expecting a few days prior definitely changed in our favor. If we had to deal with it, this was the best outcome.”