“Traditionally, bacterial disease has been a terribleproblem for us,” he said. “It has probably been ourworst enemy over the past four or five years. This year, though,I see the least amount of bacteria ever. Even this late in theseason, you just don’t see any.”Vidalias are subject to two bacterial threats: warm-weatherbacteria and cold-weather bacteria. Both have been nearly nonexistentthis year.”We do have one warm-weather bacterium that usually hitsus in April,” Torrance cautioned. “And it has hit usfor the past four or five years. Hopefully, that won’t happen.We’ll be digging onions in the next few weeks. We’re very happyabout it.” Cold, unstable weather through December and January has takena toll on the state’s valuable Vidalia onion crop. Experts saythe crop will be late, possibly smaller than normal and in shortsupply.”Because the weather was so rough in December, the onionsdidn’t really grow until mid-January,” said Reid Torrance,Tattnall County Extension Service coordinator with the Universityof Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.”It has the crop behind,” Torrance said. “Wewon’t be in full swing of harvest until the first week of May.So, we’re hoping we have good weather for the next few weeks tosize the bulbs up. We’re still optimistic that we’ll have a goodcrop. But it’s going to be short.”According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Vidaliaonion growers planted 14,387 acres of this year’s crop. That’sdown a little more than 1,000 acres from last year.”Yields off those acres usually average 200 hundredweightper acre,” Torrance said. “Last year it was 255 hundredweightper acre — a 25 percent increase over our long-term average,and the biggest crop we’ve ever made. We will be off anywherefrom one-third to half of that (record) yield this year.”Short Crop, Good MarketOn the heels of last year’s bumper crop of onions, the newsisn’t all bad for onion marketers. A short market usually equalshigher prices. Fewer acres coupled with at least a 15-percentto 20-percent loss in yields should make for a favorable Vidaliaonion market.”My guess is we will be 30 percent off what we shippedlast year at the best,” Torrance said. “And it couldbe closer to 50 percent off. From here on out, it will all dependon the weather.”Vidalia onions require even temperatures and good soil moistureto grow.”We need the good stable temperatures like we are gettingthis week,” Torrance said. “We’ve been riding this roller coaster of up-and-down temperatures. Last week I had to wear a jacket. Onions don’t grow when it’s jacket weather. What they’re projecting for the next week is just what we need.”It’s those temperature swings that delayed the crop. It takeseven, warm temperatures to promote bulbing in onions.”If it gets too hot, the tops will fall over and the bulbstops growing,” Torrance said. “If that happens, we’llget a lot of medium onions and few jumbos. We need some help fromMother Nature with some rain to keep the tops stiff, too. If theyget stressed, they’ll fall over and won’t size up.”Good Weather, High QualityWhile the short crop will likely bring higher prices for growers, it also means higher prices for shoppers. The good news for both is that Torrance also expects a high-quality crop.