Along with Hortlink, don’t forget that Hort Innovation’s onion grower page is an important source of industry info for levy payers. On it you’ll find:

  • Updates regarding the Onion Strategic Investment Plan (SIP), as available. Developed in close consultation with growers and other industry stakeholders, the SIP is a document outlining the priorities for strategic investment in the industry. It is to be used like a ‘roadmap’ by the onion Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) when providing advice to Hort Innovation on potential levy investments.
  • The latest meeting notes from the onion SIAP, which most recently met in late September 2016, and is due to meet again during June.
  • Current financial documents regarding your levy, including the July 2016 to March 2017 financial operating statement, and expenditure summaries for R&D and marketing projects.
  • Grower resources, events and articles of interest to the industry.

Any questions?

As well as the onion grower page, Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Bradley Mills is always available to answer questions on the onion program on 0408 635 465 or at bradley.mills@horticulture.com.au. For questions relating specifically to the industry’s marketing, contact Hort Innovation Marketing Manager Craig Perring.



Development of an onion white rot forecast model for Tasmania (VN14001)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Onion white rot is a serious fungal disease. Beginning in 2016, this project is developing a forecasting model for the disease’s infection periods in Tasmania. It will identify conditions that precede high-risk infection periods, and help in understanding optimum timings of fungicide applications for control of white rot.

What’s the latest update? Field and planter-bag trials continue in the project to collect data to model onion growth and white rot root infection risk. There are six commercial field-trial sites in north west and northern Tasmania, with planter-bag trials at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture Vegetable Research Facility.

Another season of data will be required to round out the data collection. From the data there will be three versions of the forecast model created for growers, to account for three key onion planting periods: May, July and September. The data will be presented as a fact sheet detailing for each planting window the combinations of soil temperature, soil moisture and crop growth stage that signal the start of infection periods.

Detection and management of bacterial diseases in Australian allium crops (VN13005)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Due for completion later this year, this three-year project has been investigating bacterial diseases of onion crops in order to improve understanding of their introduction, spread and survival. It will build the industry’s capacity to manage bacterial diseases – including bacterial blight of leek (caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. porri), which affects onions and shallots – and to enhance preparedness for potential incursions of exotic diseases, such as Xanthomonas leaf blight of onion.

What’s the latest update? One of the key areas of this project’s work is in relation to control methods. The researchers note that while there are currently no products registered by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority specifically for the control of bacteria in onion crops, there are over 40 copper-containing products registered for other uses in onions – with potential to expand the registered use of some of these products for the control of bacterial diseases.

At the time of last reporting in Hortlink (2017, edition 1) investigation of these products was underway, along with the testing of non-copper products that may be effective control measures. There was also the ongoing screening of commercial onion varieties for resistance or tolerance to Pseudomonas syringae pv. porri. More details will be provided in future editions of Hortlink, when available.

Australian onion industry communications (VN15002)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project delivers effective and timely communications to ensure Australian onion growers and other industry stakeholders are kept up-to-date with the latest R&D outcomes, marketing activities, and other industry news and information. In communicating R&D in particular, the ultimate goal is to lead to practice change for growers, boosting productivity and profitability.

The project is also supported by Communication support on VN15002 – Australian onion industry (VN15003) which provides funding to Onions Australia to facilitate work with the communication program’s external service provider, and to deliver event management for the industry (including for grower walks and conferences).

What’s the latest update? A number of regular communication channels continue to be produced and maintained by the two projects, including but not limited to:

  • The Onions Australia website, www.onionsaustralia.org.au, which was updated and relaunched at the start of February this year
  • The Onions Australia annual magazine, available to download here
  • Monthly e-newsletters from Onions Australia, available to download here
  • Layers newsletters, distributed three times annually
  • Social media, via the Onions Australia Facebook and Twitter accounts
  • Other resources as needed, including podcasts
  • Regional levy-payer meetings and corresponding grower walks/field days, held twice yearly
  • Industry conferences.

Onion industry minor use program (VN16000)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Through this project, levy funds and Australian Government contributions are used to renew and apply for new minor use permits for the onion industry. These submissions are prepared and submitted to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

What’s the latest update? All current minor use permits for the industry are searchable at portal.apvma.gov.au/permits. Permit updates are also circulated in Hort Innovation’s Growing Innovation e-newsletter, which levy-paying members receive monthly. Not a member? Sign up for free here.

International onion research delegation (VN16001)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? This project was established to bring two international speakers to share knowledge and world best practice with onion growers at the recent Hort Connections industry conference, held in Adelaide from May 15 to 17. The speakers were Jacob Wiskerke from Wiskerke Onions in Holland, which is the world’s largest exporter of onions, and Dr Bill Dean from River Point Farms, which is the largest onion production facility in the US.

As well as an off-site farm tour and presentation to growers in Murray Bridge, South Australia, immediately following Hort Connections, Dr Dean also visited Tasmanian growers on May 19 to continue to extend information, including his industry-leading knowledge in pest and disease issues and trials relevant to Australian growers.

Other R&D projects of note…
  • Review of the national biosecurity plan for the onion industry and development of a biosecurity manual for onion producers (VN15001), an ongoing project that is responsible for reviewing and updating the onion industry’s biosecurity plan. In identifying, prioritising and looking at the management and surveillance of key biosecurity risks, the biosecurity plan provides a framework for risk mitigation and for managing the impact of potential pest and disease incursions. While the plan itself is a high-level decision-making document, for growers the project will also produce a biosecurity manual to inform of key exotic and endemic pests, weeds and diseases, and how to minimise the risk of them.
  • An IPM extension program for the potato and onion industries (MT16009), a project for both the onion and potato industries with a focus on integrated pest management (IPM). Its core activities will support growers in adopting IPM on farm – improving pest management with minimal pesticide use and a reduction in associated costs – and will include workshops, the use of demonstration sites with commercial crops, and the production of materials such as articles, guides and case studies distributed in industry channels. The project will also be responsible for training advisors from Australia’s major onion and potato growing regions in IPM.
  • Enhanced National Bee Pest Surveillance Program (MT16005), which is delivering a nationally coordinated bee-pest surveillance program to help safeguard honey-bee and pollinator-dependent industries in Australia. The surveillance will enable the early detection of high-priority pest incursions of honey bees, providing the best opportunity for successful pest eradication. The onion industry is one of several contributors to the project’s work.



The Secret Serve onion marketing initiative has celebrated its first full year in the market, having been launched back in May 2016.

  • In-store activity. The campaign has been a great success to date, and is continuing winter in-store demonstrations in conjunction with the mushroom industry throughout Coles, Woolworths and independent grocers around Australia. Look for results in upcoming editions of Hortlink.
  • Onion health report. The campaign has also recently released an onion health report – Health and Nutrition Overview 2017 – produced in conjunction with Secret Serve ambassador Kathleen Alleaume, a respected nutritionist. The report, detailing the benefits of onions, is available for consumers on the Secret Serve website (www.secretserve.com.au), and has also attracted widespread media coverage. It has so far prompted onion content across the web and social media channels of News.com.au, Motherpedia, Kidspot, Westfield and many more, plus coverage in a range of local newspapers (13 at last count) and a mention on 2UE radio. Kathleen and dietitian Joanna McMillan have also produced web and social media coverage.
  • Recognition. The Secret Serve campaign has also enjoyed recent success in being nominated as one of five finalists in the PMA-Produce Marketer of the Year Awards – which recognises marketing campaigns for fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers that have shown excellence in the past year.
Facts and figures

To date, the goal of increasing frequency of purchase and the average weight of purchase of onions among parents of children aged four to 12 has been successful. All measures tracked by Nielsen sales data (average weight of purchase, frequency and spend per occasion) for the target demographic are up compared to 12 months ago, when the campaign began.

Small-scale families are cooking with more onions, understanding the campaign’s key messages, and there are indications the marketing activity is helping change minds about cooking with onions.

Some top-line results around the campaign to date:

  • Average spend per occasion for small scale families grew from $1.70 to $2 (achieving the campaign goal)
  • Frequency of purchase of onions for small scale families grew from 2.7 to 2.9 times per month
  • On average, 35 per cent of people who have sampled onion dishes at in-store demonstrations to date have gone on to purchase in-store
  • Close to 50 per cent of people visiting the Secret Serve website (www.secretserve.com.au) are returning ‘customers’ – showing strong recall and message comprehension
  • When people were surveyed on whether they had heard of the Secret Serve and could recollect what it was about, 18 per cent recalled the campaign and its messaging – well above the industry average of five per cent.
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