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The History
Onions have been used by humans since the Neolithic age,and they are still
being used all over the world. Over thislong period, there have always been people who
haveappreciated the use of onions and used them in consider-able quantities, but there
have also been those who haverejected and detested them.Onions have been cultivated
globally, in at least 175countries, for around 5000 years. Ancient Egyptiansregarded
the spherical bulb as a symbol of the universe.The name is probably is taken from the
Latin unusmeaning “one,”and the Romans introduced the onionto Britain, from where
it may have been carried to theAmericas (Burnie et al 1999). The first known
writtenreport about the onion comes from the Sumerians anddates back to 2600–2100
BC. In the Papyrus Ebers, which isbased on ancient Egyptian writings and knowledge,
we discover that leek played an important role in thekingdom of old Egypt. The great
physician Hippocratessuggested onion as a diuretic, laxative, and emmena-gogue. He
also used onion for the treatment of pneumo-nia, and, externally, for healing putrid
The Botany
The genus Allium is very large and consists of many wildedible species (only
a small fraction is cultivated com-mercially), and is widely distributed over temperate
zonesin the northern hemisphere. The place of origin is purported to be in centralAsia,
and the Mediterranean regions are considered to bethe secondary centre of origin. The
genus Allium contains more than 780 species (Burnie et al.,1999) with large diversities
in morphological characters.The chromosome number of onion is 16 (2n). It has
beenclassified in hierarchical level as follows:
Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta
Super division: Spermatophyta
Division: Liliopodia
Subclass: Liliales
Order: Liliaceae
Genus: Allium
Species: Allium cepa L.
Onion belongs to the family Amaryllidaceae; the plant iseither biannual or
perennial (depending on the cultivar),and smells when crushed. The plant hasshallow
adventitious fibrous roots (Ranjitkar 2003), bulb,and tubular leaves. The stem grows
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100–200 cm tallduring the second year of the plant’s life. The green leavesof the plant
are an extension of the outer food storageleaves. The inflorescence is umbel-like and
develops froma ring-like apical meristem. The umbel is the aggregationof flowers at
various stages of development, and it con-tains 200–600 small individual flowers,
although thisnumber can range from 50 to 1000. It iscomposed of white or greenish-
white small flowers whichgrow at the tip of the stem in the second year of the plant.The
onion bulb ranges in shape from flat to globular tooblong, and the onions are usually
of three colors: red,white, and yellow. The fruits are capsuleand contain black seeds.
The bulb is composed of fleshyand enlarged leaf bases. The edible onion bulb can
growup to 10 cm in diameter, and it is composed of severaloverlapping layers on a
central core. The outer leaf basesof the bulb lose moisture and become scaly by the
time of harvesting, and the inner leaves thicken as the bulbdevelops. The majority of
the species of onion grow inopen, sunny, and dry land, mainly in humid
climates.However, the Allium species have been adopted in otherecological niches of
the world (Fritsch and Friesen 2002).
The onion plants grow in areas that have evenly distributed rainfall throughout
the year and include plants that require quite long exposure to the sun, more than 4
hours / day. If it is too short or is in a shaded or protected place so that it does not get
enough sunlight, the production is low, it feels rather tasteless, and cannot last long.
Therefore, the onion is planted in a cool place. The air temperature is good for plant
growth of 18-20o C. At lower temperatures 1 - 1.5o C, onions are still able to form
flowers. The air condition with relative humidity ranges from 80-90% (quite moist) is
very good for the growth of onion plants.
The optimum height that is suitable for onion cultivation is ± 1,500 m asl, with
sufficient sunlight, and a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Land suitable for onions is fertile soil,
lots of topsoil, and loose. Soil should be easy to carry on water so it is not easy to
muddy and solidify. The best type of soil is sandy clay or dusty clay, which is a soil
that has a balanced ratio between clay, sand and dust fractions.
The Productivity management
Onion is an extensively grown biennial bulb crop, withworld production of
74,250,809 tonnes from an area of4,364,000 hectares. China and India are theprimary
onion growing countries, followed by the USA,Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Brazil,
the Russian Federa-tion, and the Republic of Korea (FAO, 2012). Onionproductivity is
highest in the Republic of Korea(66.16 t/ha), followed by the USA (56.26 t/ha),
Spain(53.31 t/ha), and the Netherlands (51.64 t/ha); the averageproductivity across the
world is 19.79 t/ha. From aneconomic point of view, the international trade in
onionexports is 6.77 million tonnes. The Netherlands is thehighest onion exporter (1.33
million tonnes) followed byIndia, China, Egypt, Mexico, USA, Spain, and
Argentina.Bangladesh, Malaysia, the Russian Federation, the UK,Japan, and Saudi
Arabia are the major onion importing countries in the world.
Rank Country Total Production (Tonnes)
1 China 20,507,759
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2 India 13,372,100
3 USA 3,320,870
4 Egypt 2,208,080
5 Iran 1,922,970
6 Turkey 1,900,000
7 Paskitan 1,701,100
8 Brazil 1,556,000
9 Russia 1,536,300
10 Republic of Korea 1,411,650

The improved agronomic management is an important practice to reduce the

yield gap and to enhance the food security within an area and among farming
households. A plant population density is one of the important agronomic factors which
can limit the onion production and productivity. According to Winch (2006) report, a
plant which has been grown too close together are competing for sunlight, essential
nutrients, water, and air that leads to producing small bulb with a low quality whereas
a plant which has grown too far apart produces vigor individual plant but low yield per
given areas. Hence different onion varieties have responded differently to various plant
Water availability is the main limiting factor of crop productivity than all of the
rests due to its paramount importance for normal plant growth and developments.
Hence, due to its shallow root system and needs frequent irrigation water after a short
interval, onion is susceptible to water stress as compared to other crops. Knowing a
number of water requirements of onion based on the specific area is basically important
to produce the optimum onion yields. Bossie (2009) elaborated that, knowing of the
water requirement and the coefficient values of the crop can help to accurately plan and
manage the irrigation water for onion production at different locations even an area
where a water shortage is very critical. Therefore, assuming of high irrigation
frequency and better scheduling method may be expected to increase the applied
fertilizer use efficiency, reduces leaching effects and to improve onion yields by
increasing bulb sizes. Bombay red is the most widely grown onion variety under
irrigation water in the country due to its higher bulb yield, earliness and susceptible to
the rotting disease under a rainfed condition at maturity stage (Nikus and Mulugeta,
2013). As a result, knowing of the individual crop water requirements help to produce
more than two times per annum to ensure the year-round production of onion in order
to get a high return as well as to reduce the susceptibility of the crop to various diseases
and insect pests.
Disease and insect pests are the most important yield reducing factor for
different vegetable crop production systems including of onion. Onion is the crop that
can be easily susceptible to diverse biotic and abiotic stresses. Diverse types of
pathogens are affecting the crop by causing diverse diseases based on the available
conducive environmental interactions with susceptible cultivars. As a result, several
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farmers in Gojjam zone of Amhara region has shifted to shallot rather than onion
production due to disease severity and other observed problems in the area. The same
is true for other parts of the country which take the lion share of onion yield reduction.
Some diseases were identified as causing huge loss unless treated based on their types
and causes of diseases. Based on this, different fungal pathogens are attacking the crop
by causing the economic losses. Botrytis leaf blight (BLB) or neck rot is one of fungal
disease which affects only onion in cool climate areas on worldwide. The disease is
primarily the storage disease which may infect by spores blown from infected onion
debris and improperly disposed of cull piles.
Fusarium basal rots (fusariumoxysporum) also identified as another fungal
disease-causing pathogen of onion in Ethiopia. The yield losses by basal rot can be
more than 50% which can effects by attacking of the cloves and seedlings, causing pre
and post-emergence damping off, root rot of older plants, and steam plate discoloration
and basal rot of bulbs in the field and storage (Zeleke and Derso 2015). The disease
can be controlled by preventing the disease occurrences and by applying of fungicide
chemical. Thrips is one of the challenging insect pests of onion which mainly affects
the leaf parts of the plant that reduces the yield and productivity of the crop. Currently,
however, different research work has been undertaking by focusing on the
identification of different disease and insect pests and their mitigation strategies to
overcome the observed problems and to boost the production and productivity of the
crop in the country.

Wet Slices

Feed Dry Slices

Dry Veggie Pickle

Seed Flour
Onion Tuber

Fertilizer Extract
Outer Layer

Oleoresin Medicine

Frying onion

Illustration 1 Industrial Derivatives Tree of Onion

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LECTURER : Prof. Marimin

Onions not only provide flavor, but also provide healthpromoting

phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are naturalcompounds found in onions which have
the potential topromote health benefits in humans and offer protectionfrom a variety of
diseases, including cancer. The organo-sulfur compounds have antimicrobial,
antiallergenic,anti-inflammatory, and antithrombotic activity. As well as this, flavonols
in onions, suchas quercetin and kaempferol, also possess different crucialbiological
roles for health maintenance, like antiviral,antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and
anticancer activity,along with protection of the heart and brain.
It is a well established fact that flavonoids have antiox-idant properties. It is the
best studied and describedactivity of onion flavonoids, which protect cells andtissues
against reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS pro-duce free radicals, which damage the
cells of differentorgans exogenously. It has also been provedin vitro that flavonoids,
such as quercetin and kaempferol,stabilize the free electrons that originate from ROS.
The hydroxyl configuration of the B ring of flavonoids has a significant rolein the
scavenging of ROS, by donating hydrogen and anelectron to hydroxyl and peroxyl, to
stabilize them. The flavonoid heterocycle initiates conjuga-tion between a free 3-OH
and the aromatic rings, whichleads to antioxidant activity. Moreover,reports reveal that
position, number, occurrence andnumber of sugar residues play a crucial role in
antioxidantactivity (Ratty and Das 1988).
The major flavonoid found in onion is quercetin, pres-ent in conjugated form as
quercetin 4´-O-β-glycopyrano-side, quercetin 3,4´-O-β-diglycopyranoside, and
quercetin3,7,4´-O-β-triglycopyranoside. The dry outer layers of onion, which are
discardedbefore food processing such as cooking, contain largeamounts of quercetin,
quercetin glycoside, and theiroxidative products (Gulsen et al 2007), which are effec-
tive antioxidants against non-enzymatic lipid peroxida-tion and oxidation of low-
density lipoproteins (LDL).Quercetin, and its dimerized compound, show the
highestantioxidative activity, which is comparable to that ofα-tocopherol. Therefore,
the outer layer extract of onionis expected to be a resource for food ingredients.
Quercetin is one of the most studied flavonoids thatinhibits bacterial growth. It
has showngreat potential to inhibit the growth of Staphylococcusaureus completely.
Experiments haveshown that kaempferol works as an inhibitor againstHelicobacter
pylori.It has been reported that onion and garlic extracts exertbactericidal effects
towards Streptococcus mutans,Strep-tococcus sobrinus,Porphyromonas gingivalis, and
Prevo-tella intermedia (Gram-positive bacteria), considered asthe main bacteria
responsible for dental caries and adultperiodontitis, respectively.However, onion is not
effective against Gram-negativebacteria. In addition to organosulfurcompounds, it has
been reported that certain quercetinoxidation products found in onion also present
antibac-terial activity against H. pylori and MRSA (multidrug-resistant S. aureus)
(Ramos et al 2006).
Phytochemicals found in onions, such asquercetin and kaempferol, play a big
role in reducing thegrowth of various viruses.Moreover, quercetin and kaempferol have
shown the irvirucidal activity against the herpes simplextype I virus, rabies virus, polio
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virus, mengo virus, pseu-dorabies virus, sindbis virus, and parainfluenza type 3virus.
As well as this, cell culture datahave shown that the quercetin flavonol may inhibit
thereplication of different respiratory viruses, reducing theirviral count.Quercetin also
enhances the bioavailability of some anti-viral drugs (Wu et al 2005). Lectins are a
very heteroge-neous group of glycoproteins, with the ability to recognizeand bind
specifically to carbohydrate ligands. Onionlectins have a pronounced anti-HIV activity.

Burnie G, Forrester S, and Greig D. 1999. Botanica: The Illustrated A-Z of over
10,000 Garden Plants 3rd Edition. New South Wales(Au): Random House.
Fritsch R, Friesen N. 2002. Evolution, domestication, and taxonomy. In: Rabinowitch
HD, Currah L. EdsWallingford(UK): CABIPublishing
Ranjitkar HD. 2003. A Handbook of Practical Botany. Kathmandu (Ind):ArunKumar
Ratty Ak and Das NP. 1988. Effects of flavonoids onnonenzymatic lipid peroxidation:
structure–activityrelationship. Biochem Med Metabol Biol.39(1):69–79
Winch T. 2006. Growing Food. Springer.1-103
Wu CP, Calcagno AM, Hladky SB, Ambudkar SV, and BarrandMA. 2005. Modulatory
effects of plant phenols onhuman multidrug-resistance proteins 1, 4 and
5(ABCC1, 4 and 5). FEBS J.272(18):4725–4740.