By Sujan Paudel, 2021-2024 FFAR Fellow
at the University of Georgia
Within the U.S., Georgia is famously known for its Vidalia onion industry. These onions were first grown in Toombs County, South Georgia. Their unique flat shape with a sweet taste led to immediate popularity among growers and consumers. The distinct quality of this onion is due to the low amount of sulfur in the soil which cuts down the acidity and pungency making them sweeter than most other varieties. The continued growth of the industry and Vidalia’s increasing popularity did create branding problems where onions brought from outside were bagged and sold as Vidalias. The Federal Market Order 955 in 1989 defined the growing regions and mandated the growers to register and use specific varieties that provided national protection to the industry. This branding support and advancements in storage conditions oversaw the further growth of the industry which accounts for a staggering $160 million farm gate value and is now spread across 12,000 acres in 20 counties of South Georgia. My research, as a plant pathology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Georgia, aims to help protect this industry from deadly bacterial diseases..