During a career in horticultural science, I have been involved with the Alliums from several different angles.
First at college, where I was intrigued by the classic studies on onion physiology; then as a researcher on vegetable growing in Tanzania; later on as a scientist investigating onion breeding problems and Botrytis disease resistance in the UK, with a brief period in the United States working on onion cytology and tissue culture; and after that in international development, where I collected and sent out Allium information and distributed seed for tropical trials.
Now I'm a commercial consultant.
But beyond this, I am an enthusiastic consumer of the Alliums.
So my experience as a housewife and buyer of these crops colours my views of the evolution of the markets in relation to science.
I will give a rather selective overview of current Allium science, mainly talking about innovative work by research groups with which I am familiar.
I also want to take a look at the research commissioning process in a few countries, before speculating a little on the future for Allium science.
In the time available I can only highlight a few examples: one problem we face today is the huge amount of information available.
A map which I compiled, showing the geographical origins of the 500 most recent reports directly concerned with Alliums in Horticultural Abstracts, demonstrates this problem.
It only covered the period from July 1997 to late in 1995, but already most of Europe south of Scandinavia, Israel, Egypt around Cairo, Japan, the Korean Republic, Shandong Province in China, Taiwan, Cuba, the Mendoza region of Argentina, and much of India and southern Brazil, were hidden by a mass of map pins representing abstracted articles.
In the USA the reports were more spread out, representing the various State university sites.
From this huge number of reports, I tried to choose some topics which have come into prominence since the last international meeting we had on the Edible Alliums, in Mendoza in 1994.