Moulton onion grower on the problem of bolting

Jim West.
Jim West.

June is the time when most growers can relax a little while watching their crops grow and hope that the weather gods will be kind. Many farmers try to grab a well-earned break before the onslaught of harvest, writes Jim West.

While offering sacrifices to the weather gods, I also hope that the bolting gods will look favourably on onion growers. To non-farming readers: I do not have a fear of bolting farm gates or ferrets bolting rabbits from their holes; rather I worry our onion growers will see what appear to be allium flowers appearing in their crops, ie bolting!

Wikipedia describes bolting as, ‘when crops prematurely produce a flowering stem resulting in a poor quality harvest’. There are several theories as to what triggers it, but a generally accepted view is that low temperatures at a particular stage of a plant’s life can initiate this problem. We can try to minimise the bolting risk by later planting dates, varietal choice and heat treatment of sets, but luck with the weather plays a massive part.

It is too early to say what severity of bolting we will see this season but I have begun to spot the odd ones in autumn sown set crops.

I am hopeful that percentage levels will be low but Wikipedia also says that, ‘plants under stress may respond to bolting and ultimately die’. So as you see these wonderful allium flowers appearing, please consider the growers ‘bolting’ down a beer or two to drown their sorrows at a reduced harvest.