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Varieties of Red, white and yellow Onion

Onion (Allium cepa L.) 2n=2x=16, is one of the important bulb crops belonging to family Alliaceae and has gained the importance of a cash crop in recent years because of its very high export potential.

The common onion contains 88.6-92.8% moisture, 0.9-1.6% protein, 0.2% fat, 5.2-9.0% carbohydrates, 50-51mg sulphur and 23-28 calories energy per 100 g of edible portion.

Onion is characterized by its distinctive flavour and pungency, which is the due to Allylpropyl-disulphide, a sulphur containing compounds found in the scales of the bulb.

The red and yellow colour of outer skin of onion is due to presence of Anthocyanin and Quercetin, respectively.

Anti-fungal activities in onion is due to a phenolic factor i.e., Catechol. India is a leading producer of onion supporting 20.2% of the world production.

The major onion growing states are Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Odisha.

The cultivation of onion is highly technical and depends on environmental conditions such as photoperiod, temperature, etc.  Keeping in view the different research institutes has developed improved varieties suitable for particular region and season.

The commercially grown varieties of onion are classified into three groups based on skin colour viz., Red, White and Yellow.

The promising varieties of onion grown in different parts of India in different seasons (rabi and kharif) are described as under with their salient characteristics.

1. Red Onion varieties

Varieties Source Salient characteristics
Pusa Red ICAR-IARI, New Delhi Bulbs medium, average weight 70-90g, bronze in colour, flat to globular shape, less pungent, less bolting, good keeping quality. Maturity 125-140 days after transplant. Yields 250-300q/ha.
Pusa Ratnar -do- Bulbs oblate to flat, globular, larger, less pungent, neck dropping and bronze deep-red coloured. Fair in storage quality. Produce 300-400q/ha.
Pusa Madhavi -do- Bulbs medium to large, light red and flattish- round. Maturity in 130-135 days after transplanting. Keeping quality is good. Yield potential is 300q/ha.
Pusa Ridhi  -do- Suitable for kharif and rabi seasons having compact, flat globe, and dark red colour bulbs. Bulb weight ranges from 70-100g and produce 310q yield/ha. Pungent and rich in antioxidant (quercetin 107.42mg/100 g). Also suitable for storage and export.
Arka Pragati ICAR-IIHR, Bengaluru It has attractive pink coloured globe-shaped bulbs of uniform size with thin neck, high pungency and early maturity. Grown successfully during rabi and kharif in the South. Maturity in 140-145 days after transplanting.  Yields 200q/ha.
Arka Niketan -do- Bulbs globular with thin neck, attractive colour, average weight 100-180g, TSS 12-14%, High pungency, can be stored for 5 months at room temp. Maturity 145 day.
Arka Kalyan -do- Bulbs globular with deep pink coloured outer scales and fleshy succulent concentric internal scales, weighting 100-190g and give 335q/ha. Tolerant to purple blotch disease. It can be grown successfully in kharif.
Arka Bindu -do- Bulbs are small in size (2.5-3.5cm), deep pink, flattish globe, pungent, high TSS (14-16%), early maturity. Free from early bolting and splitting. Suitable for export particularly to Malaysia to Singapore. Produce 250q yield/ha.
Bangalore rose -do- Bulbs are small sized and uniform in colour and size. Suitable for export and yields 150q/ha.
Arka Kirtiman (F1) -do- An F1 hybrid with red bulbs, firm texture, light red flesh, TSS 10%. Shelf life 5 months, good for transport, free from split and bolters. Resistant to biotic stresses. Maturity 120-125 days. Best for AP, Eastern MP and Orissa. Yield ranges from 300-375q/ha.
Arka Lalima (F1) -do- Hybrid which produce 500q/ha variety. Bulbs deep red, globe with firm texture, light red flesh, TSS 12%. Shelf life 5 months, good for transport, free from split & bolters. Resistant to biotic stresses. Maturity 130-135 days.
Bhima Raj  ICAR-DOGR, Pune  Produces dark red and oval shaped bulbs with single centre and thin neck. TSS ranges from 10-11%. Suitable for kharif and late kharif season. It can be cultivated during rabi season for immediate market. Matures within 120-125 days after transplanting with absolutely no bolters with high percentage of marketable bulbs during rabi. Stored up to 3 months during rabi season. Per hectare yield ranges from 250-300q.
Bhima Red  -do- Suitable for kharif and late kharif season. It can be grown during rabi season also for immediate marketing. Bulbs are attractive red in colour with round shape. Yields 480-520q/ha. TSS ranges from 10-11%. Matures in about 115-120 days after transplanting during late kharif and rabi season.
Bhima Super -do- Suitable for kharif season and can be cultivated during late kharif. Possesses medium red coloured round bulbs with tapering towards neck. TSS is 10-11%. Produces quality bulbs with maximum number of single centred bulbs. Bulbs attain maturity after 100-110 days after transplanting during kharif season. Give 260-280q/ha in kharif and 400-450q/ha in late kharif.
Bhima Kiran  -do- Suitable for rabi season. Bulb attains immediate light red colour after harvest. Bulbs are oval to round in shape, have very less number of bolters and doubles in rabi (less than 5%), thin neck, TSS 12%, good keeping quality suitable for storage up to 5-6 months. Matures in 130 days after transplanting and produce 410q/ha.
Bhima Shakti  -do- Suitable for late kharif as well as rabi season. Bulbs attains immediate attractive red colour after harvest. Shape is round. TSS 11.8%. Small to medium neck thickness, uniform neck fall during rabi and more than 70% neck fall during late kharif. Bulbs have very good storage life up to 5-6 months. Bulbs mature in 130 days after transplanting during late kharif and rabi season. Tolerant to thrips. Yield potential is 420-450q/ha.
Agrifound Light Red NHRDF, Nasik Bulbs are light Red and globular in shape. Slow bolter. It has good keeping quality. Maturity in 160-165 days after sowing and gave about 300-325q yield/ha. TSS 13%.
Agrifound Dark Red -do- Selection from a local stock of kharif onion grown in Nasik. Bulbs are dark red, globular in shape with tight skin, moderately pungent. TSS 12-13%. Matures in 150-160 days after sowing. Suitable for kharif and late kahrif. Excellent in keeping quality and yields 300-400q/ha. 
Agrifound Rose -do- Developed specially for export purpose. Bulbs flattish round, red, 2.5-3.5 cm in size, TSS 15-16%. Suitable for kharif season in Cuddapah and in all three Karnataka. Bulb matures in 95-110 days from sowing.  
Hisar-2 CCS, HAU, Hisar Bulbs bronze-red in colour like those of Pusa Red and are top-sided flat-globular, sweet but pungent. Matures in 165 days after sowing. TSS 11.5-13.9%.  Yields 300q/ha.
Punjab Naroya PAU, Ludhiana Bulbs are medium to large, red, round with close neck. It takes 120 days from transplanting to harvesting and produce 250-300q/ha yield. Tolerant to purple blotch disease both in seed and bulb crop production. Tolerant to thrips.
Punjab Red Round -do- Bulbs are shining red, medium to large, globular and thin skinned. Early maturing and high yielding (300q/ha). It contains comparatively less direct bolters than Punjab selection.
Punjab Selection -do- Bulb red, globular in shape, average weight 50-70g, quite firm with good keeping quality. Average yield is 337q/ha.
N-53 MPKVP, Rahuri Bulbs are globe shaped medium sized, very attractive, purplish red at harvesting and moderately pungent. Bulbs mature in 150-165 days. Bulb weight and yield is 80-120g and 250-300q/ha, respectively. The neck of bulbs become thin at the time of maturity and leaves remain green. This is the most suitable variety for kharif season.
N-2-4-1 -do- Pungent and contain 11-13% TSS. The variety has a high-yield potential (250-300q/ha) with good keeping quality. Tolerant to Alternaria blight and thrips.
Baswant-780 -do- Bulbs globular in shape, red, mildly pungent, attractive and free from pre-mature bolting. TSS 11-12%. Average in keeping quality and produce 200-250q yield/ha. Mature in 150-160 days from sowing. Suitable for kharif season cultivation.
Udaipur-101 MPUAT, Udaipur Bulbs are flattish, globular, red and sweet with less pungent. It is good for salad. Maturity in 150-160 days after sowing with 200-300q yield/ha. TSS 12-14%.
Udaipur-103 -do- Bulbs are red but lighter than Udaipur-101, oblate-globular in shape, sweet but slightly more pungent. Maturity in 150-160 days after sowing. TSS 10.5-13%

2. White colour Onion varieties

Varieties Source Salient characteristics
Pusa White round ICAR-IARI, New Delhi Bulbs are white and roundish flat with TSS 12-13%. Suitable for dehydration. Yields up to 300q/ha.
Pusa White flat -do-  Bulbs are white, flat and medium to large in size with TSS 12-14%. Suitable for dehydration.
Bhima Shweta  ICAR-DOGR, Pune Suitable for rabi season. Bulbs are attractive white in colour, round in shape, very less number of bolters and doubles less than 3%, thin neck, TSS 11.5%, matures in 110-115 day after transplanting and medium in keeping quality up to 3 months. Tolerant to thrips. Yields 350 q/ha.
Bhima Shubra  -do- Suitable for kharif and late kharif season. Bulbs attractive white in colour, oval to round in shape, thin neck, TSS 10.4-11.7% and matures in 112-125. Stored for 2-3 months during late kharif. It has capacity to tolerate environmental fluctuation, hence can be cultivated in all the three seasons. Give yield 240 q/ha (kharif) and 380 q/ha (late kharif).
Agrifound White NHRDF, Nasik Bulbs are white, round, diameter 4-5 cm with TSS 14-15%. Good storage quality and suitable for dehydration. Matures in 160-165 days. Yield ranges from 200-250q/ha.
Punjab-48 (S-48) PAU, Ludhiana Bulbs are white, flatish round, very good texture & flavour. Good keeping and storage quality. Suitable for dehydration.
Punjab White -do- Bulbs are large, round with white neck. It has high TSS (15%) and suitable for dehydration. Average yield between 250-300q/ha.
N-257-9-1 MPKVP, Rahuri Bulbs globe-shaped, white. High yield potential with good keeping quality. Suitable as a rabi crop. Suitable for dehydration.
Udaipur-102 MPUAT, Udaipur Bulb size is 4.5-6.5 cm, white, round to flat. Maturity in 120 days and produce yield 300-350q/ha. TSS is 12%.

3. Yellow Onion varieties

Varieties Source Salient characteristics
Early Grano ICAR-IARI, New Delhi Bulbs are globe shaped, 7-8 cm in diameter and less pungent. Low in TSS (6-7%) but it has good keeping quality with 300-350q yield/ha. Early and harvested 95 days after harvesting. Suitable for hills. Free from bolting.
Brown Spanish ICAR-IARI, Regional Station, Katrain A medium long day type variety suitable for hilly areas. Bulbs are thick skinned, less pungent and has excellent storability. It has 13-14% TSS. Average yield is 250-300q/ha.
Arka Pitamber ICAR-IIHR, Bangaluru Short-day type. Bulbs uniform, yellow, globe shape, high TSS, firm, good keeping quality, free from splits, bolters and internal doubles. High stable bulb yield.
Phule Swarna MPKVP, Rahuri Less pungent, 11.5% TSS having 4-6 months storage life. Suitable for export to Europe, Australia and America. Yield up to 240q/ha.


In India, the cultivation of onion is mainly done in two seasons’ viz., kharif and rabi.

Among the above described varieties, the varieties like Pusa Ridhi, Arka Kalyan, Agrifound Dark Red, Agrifound Rose, N-53, Baswant-780, Bhima Raj, Bhima Red, Bhima Super, Bhima Shubra and Bhima Super are recommended for kharif season cultivation.


Deshraj Choudhary1 and Haridayal Choudhary2

1Division of Vegetable Science and Floriculture, SKUAST, Jammu-180 009 (J&K)

2Deptt. of Horticulture, SKNAU, Jobner (Rajasthan)