A new cultivar of onion from New Mexico State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station is now ready for seed industry commercialization with the assistance of Arrowhead Center.

NuMex Whisper is an open-pollinated, highly single-centered, late-maturing, intermediate-day, yellow-scaled onion cultivar and is sown in the fall in southern New Mexico and similar environments. The onion was released in 2013.

NMSU’s Christopher Cramer, a professor of horticulture in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the Jose Fernandez Memorial Chair in Crop Production, has worked on this project since 1978, after crossing numerous short-day and intermediate-day varieties in different ways. He’s worked toward developing an onion bulb that is firm, has dry, high-quality outer scale characteristics, and has a center-growing point. NuMex Whisper’s scale characteristics, such as bulb firmness and scale color, adherence, thickness and number, were important in the quality evaluations.

“It’s important that a jumbo onion bulb have a single growing point,” Cramer said, “especially for using them for onion rings. It’s also important that the scales don’t adhere too tightly.”

Seed of NuMex Whisper is sown in the fall and harvested in late June or early July. Usually, New Mexico onions are harvested from May through August.

According to David Thompson, the associate dean and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, New Mexico is the leading producer of fresh-market, non-storage onions in the United States.

“In fact,” he said, “during the summer months, New Mexico producers supply more than 60 percent of all fresh onions consumed nationwide.”

Even though NuMex Whisper was developed for New Mexico, it should grow well in other regions of the country where intermediate-day onions are grown.

Rob Gobleck of Lockhart Seeds has worked with Cramer for about 15 years on additional cultivar projects.

“He is always letting me know about new releases and about whatever he is working on,” Gobleck said. “I arrange for him to put trials out on different farms.”

Funding for the development of NuMex Whisper was provided by the New Mexico Dry Onion Commission and the NMSU Agricultural Experiment Station.

“There are about 15 to 20 universities in the U.S. that have public vegetable breeding programs,” Cramer said. “Only one other university does onion breeding.”

For more information on “NuMex Whisper,” contact Cramer at cscramer@nmsu.edu or 575-646-2657.

Arrowhead Center’s Intellectual Property and Tech Transfer Office is assisting Cramer with the commercialization of NuMex Whisper. For more information on Arrowhead Center, visit http://arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu/.