The man at Kirton who knows his onions

Andy Richardson with some of the onion varieties developed at Kirton. Photo (MIKE DAVISON): SG011012-04MD
Andy Richardson with some of the onion varieties developed at Kirton. Photo (MIKE DAVISON): SG011012-04MD

AN AGRICULTURAL centre at Kirton has been responsible for dramatically reducing the amount of onions imported into the UK.

The Allium & Brassica Centre Group has also changed the face of onions as we know them, introducing a number of new breeds including a pink onion called Rosanna, which should be on the supermarket shelves any day soon.

The centre has become a specialist centre for allium and brassica – doing everything from breeding new varieties, giving advice to growers to helping with storage solutions for the crops it specialises in.

The centre, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, offers advice to hundreds of growers locally as well as further afield, from helping farmers select seed varieties and grow the crops, to advising on how to control weeds, pests and disease and on storage.

Controlled atmosphere storage for up to 3,100 tonnes of produce has been designed for in-house plant breeding. The high-tech storage solution, alongside other techniques that have been developed, means onions can be stored for between four to six weeks longer, which has reduced imports by half, according to joint group managing director Andy Richardson.

He said: “Our imports have gone from 30-35,000 tonnes to 15-16,000 tonnes so we have made a big impact on that. Last year was the first time we had the UK crop for 11 months of the year, so we only have four weeks of imports.”