4 Dec 2013

Local researchers know their onions

1:08 pm on 4 December 2013

New Zealand scientists have been looking into what makes onions tick - and believe they've made a discovery that will have global ramifications.

A joint research programme being run by Otago University and Plant and Food Research - has identified the gene that sets off the onion bulb's development.

Professor Richard Macknight of Otago University says it's been known since the 1920s that onions form bulbs in the autumn due to the change in day length.

He says the research took a closer look at this process and identified the key signal molecule that triggers the formation of the bulb when day-length changes.

He says this will assist breeders to develop onions suitable for local conditions.

Professor Macknight says the next step is to work with industry and breeders so they can more quickly select the varieties of onions they desire.

He says the researchers are in talks with onion breeders in India - about improving the varieties grown there.

He says while Otago University provided the genetic expertise, Plant and Food provided the practical link with industry, ensuring the research will be used by growers.