Onion (Allium cepa) hybrid breeding in India: status and prospects

H. Singh, A. Khar
Bulb onion (Allium cepa L. 2n=2x=16), member of Amaryllidaceae family, is an imperative spice and condiment vegetable crop. This crop is consumed in almost all Indian houses. Onion is supposed to be the earliest domesticated species that possesses various health promoting properties, such as anti-hypertensive, lipid-lowering, anti-diabetic, immune-protective, antimicrobial and anti-obesity properties. Since antiquity, Indian farmers cultivated onions mainly for culinary purpose to augment flavor and for raw consumption. Demand of onion in India is increasing day by day owing to a heightened awareness among the people about its health benefits. Indian onion cultivators depend only on open-pollinated cultivars (OPVs) because hybrid breeding programs in this important cash crop have not gained pace. Development of F1 hybrids for enhancing productivity and tolerance towards various abiotic and biotic stresses has been emphasized since the 1960s. But hybrid breeding has been less exploited in onion with respect to Indian conditions as compared to other countries, such as USA, Japan, Korea, etc. Hybrids are quite popular among onion growers worldwide due to their high yielding ability with uniform bulb size, morphological and maturity traits. For commercial F1 hybrids, development in onion primarily depends on the availability of suitable inbred lines along with a stable male sterility mechanism. The development of widely adopted onion commercial hybrids needs the identification of stable cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) lines from the commercially adopted local population of onion by the comprehensive use of modern molecular techniques. Molecular markers that distinguish cytotype and are linked to the fertility restorer Ms locus, are imperative for heterosis breeding. Only public sector commercial hybrids would have an immense impact by breaking yield barriers and significantly heightening the productivity of onion bulbs under a rapidly varying climatic scenario and soaring domestic demand. This also would considerably enhance the income of farmers, hence will ultimately enhance their livelihoods.
Singh, H. and Khar, A. (2023). Onion (Allium cepa) hybrid breeding in India: status and prospects. Acta Hortic. 1362, 547-552
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2023.1362.73
cytotypes, cytoplasmic male sterility, heterosis, Ms locus

Acta Horticulturae