Onion: Introduction and importance

Onion (Allium cepa L) is one of the important condiments widely used in all households all the year round. The green leaves and immature and mature bulbs are eaten raw or used in preparation of vegetables. Onions are used in soups, sauces and for seasoning foods. The small bulbs one pickled in vinegar. Recent research has suggested that onions in the diet may play a part in preventing heat disease and other ailments. Onion bulb is rich in phosphorus, calcium and carbohydrates. The pungency in onion is due to a volatile oil known as allyl-propyl disulphide.

  Trends, area, production and yield

Onion is an important crop in all continents with world production of about 25 million tonnes. There has been a progressive increase in area and production of onion in Pakistan. In 1998-99, the area increased to 84.3 thousand hectare, production 1138.2 thousand tonnes and yield was 13.5 tonnes/ha. The data since 1993-94 one as follows.

Table – 1:    Area, production and yield of onion in Pakistan (1993-94 to 1998-99)  





(000 ha)


(000 tonnes)



1993-94 70.3 911.5 13.0
1994-95 74.8 1013.1 12.8
1995-96 77.9 1097.6 14.1
1996-97 80.8 1131.0 14.0
1997-98 81.4 1076.5 13.2
1998-99 84.3 1138.2 13.5

The average shares of the provinces in the over all area and production of onion, based on the data of 1998-99 crop are given in the following table.

Table -2: Shares of provinces in area and production of onion (1998-99)    

Province Area Production
000,ha percent share 000, tonnes Percent Share
Punjab 22.2 26.3 230.8 20.3
Sindh 34.5 40.9 457.0 40.1
NWFP 6.9 8.2 120.5 10.6
Baluchistan 20.7 24.6 329.9 29.0
Pakistan 84.3 100.0 1138.2 100

  Production zones/cropping pattern

The major onion growing districts are Kasur, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Vehari, Khaneawal, D.G. Khan, and Jhang in Punjab, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Sukkar, N. Feroze and Badin in Sindh, Swat in NWFP and Mastung, Kalat, Chagai, Khuzdar and Turbat in Baluchistan. These 21 districts account for more than 76 percent of the total production of onion in Pakistan. More than 50 percent of the total production comes from seven districts namely Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Swat, Mastung, Kalat and Turbat.

Planting and Harvesting times of Onion



Nursery Sowing Transplanting Harvesting
Punjab October/November December/January May-June
NWFP October December/January June/Jully

(Lower Sindh)

July-August September/October January/February
(Uper Sindh) October December/January April/May
Balochistan February-March

(Direct Seeding)


Production technology and recommendation for enhancing production

Nursery raising, transplanting and spacing:

For production of seedlings, seed is sown in seedbeds 6-10 weeks before transplanting in the field. Onions are transplanted into the field 10cm between the plants and 20 to 25 cm apart in rows.

Manuring and Fertilizing:

Well-rotten farm yard manure @ 25-35 tonnes/ha should be ploughed under during land preparation at least one month before bed preparation. Before transplanting, 70-80 kg of phosphorus, 50 kg of Nitrogen and 50 kg of Potash per hectare should be thoroughly mixed in the soil. This should be followed with a supplementary dose of 50 kg of nitrogen per hectare at the time of bulb formation.


The first watering is given immediately after sowing and transplanting. Afterwards subsequent irrigations should be given at 7-10 days interval. The watering should be discontinued before neckfall.

Hoeing and Weeding:

As soon as the young plants have become established in the field, they should be hoed for he control of weeds. Three to four hoeing are necessary for controlling weeds.

Harvesting and Curing:

Onion bulbs should be harvested after 75% of the crop have shown neckfall. Onion bulbs may be left on the surface of the ground for field curing until tops one fully dry. Three to four days field curing is desirable to improve the storage life of onion. One to two centimeters of the top is usually left on the bulbs to prevent entrance of disease organisms.


          Province   Varieties
             Sind i) Phulkara
           Punjab i)  Desi Red
          Balochistan i)  Sariab Red
ii) Chiltan – 89
           NWFP i) Swat – 1


Source: Pakistan Agriculture Research Council