A Glum Day for Garlic Lovers

Last weekend a few of us gathered to ready the 2014 garlic for sale at this weekend’s Newstead Live! festival. It’s the third year we’ve had a stall to sell our sought after garlic and raise funds towards the ongoing costs of running the garden.  It’s a good thing we held our dinner this year!

After such a promising harvest, turns out a lot of our garlic ‘turned’ in storage under the humid conditions this summer. Garlic needs airflow, cool, dry and dark conditions for the final curing of the crop.  Any damage during the growing season (mites, bugs) or at harvest (nicks, scrapes, scratches, bruises) can cause problems later in storage, and often a secondary infection can take hold. Just goes to show you should never count on your harvest, until it’s sold, or eaten.

I suspected Fusarium wilt, but some of the later bulbs seemed to show a different affliction, with softening and darkening on the upper parts of the clove, whereas Fusarium seems to come from the base. And then there’s the SMELL! But thanks to company, Lynne’s hospitality and drinks afterwards, we got it sorted.

Garlic guru Penny Woodward has given us a lot of support and advice – she’s also established a dedicated website to garlic types in an effort to better educate us about this amazing crop. Seems we’re not alone this year and that many gardeners – home and commercial alike – have felt the grim garlic reaper.

Here’s some of Penny’s comments:

You are absolutely not alone with your problems. Many growers are retrieving their bulbs only to find that a rot of some sort has set in. Often fungal and even insect problems can occur in garlic and lie dormant or not do much damage until the bulbs are affected by adverse conditions.

Storage conditions have been really difficult with all the rain and high humidity. Storage practices that have worked for growers for years have suddenly been found to be inadequate. There has been another issue that has occurred especially with Turbans, and even more especially with large Turbans. This has been indentations in one or two cloves in a bulb that seem to have no cause. They have been sent for testing and no bacteria or fungus has been found. When these go into storage the affected cloves begin to rot eventually affecting the whole bulb if it is not noticed. Suggested, though currently unconfirmed possibilities for clove indentation are heavy frost, or damage from wheat curl mite during early growth in hot dry weather. The mites are then killed by cold but the damage remains and grows in the clove.

Fusarium Basal Rot of garlic (Fusarium culmorum) symptoms include postharvest decay of cloves in stored bulbs. Post harvest symptoms may involve single, several or all cloves in a bulb. There after, bulbs and cloves may or may not develop disease symptoms, and cloves may remain infected without developing symptoms. Infected garlic seed cloves have been produced through successive generations without evidence of symptoms, only to have the disease flare up later. The environmental or handling factors associated with this erratic occurrence of symptoms over years and seasons are unknown.

All the anecdotal evidence this year is that Turbans have been the worst affected. It might be worth getting cloves of a Creole Group garlic, of some from another Group. Creoles are good because they are long storage too and at present seem to be less prone to fungal diseases.

It’s expensive to get the garlic tested and since there’s not much known about definitive causes and prevention, we decided against it (having already sent off our loganberry – another sad story). But if you have, or have pics and info of definitive diseases, Penny would be interested (as would we) to hear.

If you’re interested in looking at sick garlic, visit the gallery (sanitorium?) here. Thankfully you won’t be able to smell it.

So, we’ve sorted and graded really well and will have a small amount of exceptionally good bulbs for sale on Saturday. They will eat very well, if the green garlic is any indicator. So please call by and comiserate with us – and also buy our best!

Penny suggests we try another type of garlic this season, so I think spreading our eggs (baskets?) and ordering a few types/sources and also thinking more about our post harvest process. I also wonder whether using BD501 just prior to harvest and/or BD508 at harvest (or even in storage) may have made any difference this season? Saide also directed me to a good article in the NEWSLEAF newsletter of Spring 2010 which focussed on harvest and drying.

And, there’s always next year … and always more to learn …

One thought on “A Glum Day for Garlic Lovers

  1. margot brulotte says:

    I was ordering a new type of garlic to grow from Diggers but their entire crop to sell failed and I am sure they have been growing and storing garlic for years so just think ….you are in there with the best of them…..

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