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Red Onion

Red Onion (Allium ascalonicum L.) has a great value as a spice crop and a commercial crop in Sri Lanka. Red onion is a highly adapted crop to the tropical climate and is cultivated in both rain fed and irrigated conditions in Yala and Maha seasons. .

Well drained sandy loam, sandy clay loam soil, reddish brown, regasole, alluvial and red yellow latasolic soil is suitable for cultivation and it is necessary to do the soil preparation properly. Around 8.9-11.2Kg of seeds are required to cultivate a hectare and crop can be harvested after 80days (1and half month) after planting seeds. This crop is cultivated in Jaffna Peninsula, Puttlam District (Kalpitiya), Vavuniya, Trincomalee and Monaragala districts as a single crop.

The Jaffna peninsula tops in Red Onions production. But the war atmosphere developed in Jaffna after 90s caused the recession in the production. The Puttlam district (Kalpitiya) has come forward to fill this gap and Monaragala district which was selected for the study is also important among from other districts. From the total extent of onion cultivated lands, 30.5% of cultivation is reported from Kalpitiya, 26.3% from Jaffna and 16.7% is from Monaragala and other districts.

The Red Onion cultivation became popular as a special production system in Monaragala district which is a South Eastern dry zone area in 1980. The cultivation become popular with the farmers in Thelulla area used to cultivate onion for their consumption in a their own way. They used to level the large ant hills situated in their Chena or home garden in to certain height and cultivated red onion seeds they bought from vegetable collectors that come to their areas from other areas. Farmers were able to harvest favorable production since the soil on the ant hill is capable of protecting the dryness during the rainy season. Later on those seeds were named as Thelulla Selection and farmers had used it for continuous cultivation..

The red onion production system was expanded in a higher level with the government sponsorship received by 1990. The contribution from the Monaragala district for the total Red Onion production was 20-25% and ‘Thelulla’ area was called as ‘little Jaffna’. This trend has now being changed and the contribution for the total Red Onion production from Thelulla area in Monaragala district has reduced up to 3%-4%. Increased demand for onion production in Jaffna after lessening the war condition, high cost in Yala season for water supply due to the drought and rotting of bulbs due to the rain in Maha season, high cost in controlling pests such as root tubercle, Thrips, purple blotch, anthracnose, fungal bulb rots, bacterial bulb rots, root eating ants, leaf eating caterpillar and bulb, and high cost for labor has reduced the cost net profit of Red Onion Farmers. .

Meanwhile, the production which earlier was at 1:40 Kg per seed kilo r has now been reduced to 1:18 rate. Reduction in the fertility in the soil, threats from wild elephants has also caused this condition. The reduction in the cultivable extent of red onion lands and high cost of labour in Thelulla area is another factors that proves the decadence in this special production system.

In this context it is timely suitable for study the socio economic and environmental sustainability of the Red Onion production system bred with environmental cooperation as a cultivation in high lands dry zone of South Eastern in Sri Lanka, with special reference to Thelulla area.