For third-generation Pukekawa vegetable farmer, Chris Nicholson, agriculture has been the family business since 1945. Chris’ grandfather started operations as a beef and sheep farmer and as generations continued the family business, Hinemoa Quality Producers Ltd made the switch to vegetables in the 1970’s. Today, Chris and his wife, Vikki run a mixed-cropping operation over 250 hectares, rotating potatoes, barley and onions.
Chris has been a supporter of Seminis onions for close to 15 years and has grown various ELK and PLK-type varieties over that time. Now into a hybrid program, Hinemoa started trialling Harrier, a Seminis hybrid offering Pink root and Fusarium Basal rot resistance, around three years ago.
“With Harrier being resistant to Pink root and Fusarium basal rot it’s been really beneficial here in Pukekawa. Country around here has been farmed for over 100 years and in this old ground, diseases show up more.
“Harrier’s disease package gives us flexibility in managing those diseases. I have also been really impressed with Harrier’s germination – like hairs on a dog’s back, everyone one we drilled came up! That is a real bonus on land that has been cropped for at least 45 years,” Chris said.
“Not only that, Harrier’s broad adaptability is a benefit as the weather here in New Zealand is very unpredictable. This hybrid gives you a range on when it can be drilled whereas with many other varieties if you miss the date and carry the seed over for another year, you wear that cost. With Harrier, there’s a better range.
“The downfall to Harrier is split skins. It’s only superficial but there’s a lot more than other varieties,” he said.
Exporting nearly 50 percent of his onions to the Pacific Islands, Indonesia, Philippines and Taiwan, Chris gives Harrier a gold star when it comes to storage saying, “I didn’t have any issues with it.” Harrier’s bulbs also have a home locally. “Harrier is a medium-sized onion and going into local retail, its uniformity and size are spot on for what we are wanting.”
Finally, and importantly for any onion growers’ business, Harrier performs over the grading and packing line.
“About 12 months ago, we ran Harrier over the grader and saw 95% pack-out, which was spot on. If you can grow every onion and sell every onion at a premium price, that’s where you want to be. The less you throw away, the more money you make. The variety was easy to grade which helped reduce some costs – that’s what you want,” says Chris.
As for Chris, he looks forward to seeing more innovative varieties come through the Seminis onion pipeline.
“My holy grail would be a brown onion – with a dynamite disease package that includes resistance to White-rot! Or a red onion with disease resistance to White-rot that could store for months on end. Disease resistance is probably the best innovation in the market!”
Interested in seeing Harrier on the packing and grading line at Hinemoa Quality Producers? Be sure to check out both Harrier and Chris in the video below.
For more product information on Harrier, click here.