SHALLOT - Potential for growing in the lowlands 


Shallot (Allium ascalonicum L.) is a form of Allium cepa L. It differs from the common onion group because it produces a cluster of bulbs from a single planted bulb and is a small stature plant.

Shallot, locally known as 'bawang merah' is a very important ingredient in most Malaysia dishes. It is used as food, spice and seasoning. It is often eaten raw, used for pickling, cooking and frying.


It is mainly imported from India and China. The Indian varieties are more pungent, red in colour and the bulbs are globular. The Chinese varieties are les pungent, brownish in colour and the bulbs are ovoid.

Planting Materials

It can either be propagated from bulbs or tree seeds. Bulbs are usually preferred because they are easier to establish and have shoter growing period.

Small to medium sized bulbs are used for planting. About ¼ of the top part of the bulb is cut iff to enhance germination. The bulb is then soaked in 0.1 % a.i. Thiram or Benlate solution for 1-2 hours and drained prior to planting.

If shallots are grown from true seeds, it must be sown in a nursery and transplanted to the field when the seedlings are 5-6 weeks old.

Land Preparation

Shallot grows best in well drained sandy loam soil. The field is prepared by removing all existing vegetation followed by ploughing. Beds measuring 1.2 m wide and 20-30 cm high are constructed 50 cm apart. Prepared beds are applied with 200g/m2 dolomite, 1.0kg/m2 chicken dung and 160g/m2 compound fertilizer 12:12:17:2 + TE before planting.


Bulbs are planted on raised beds covered with mulches. They are spaced at 15-20 cm within rows and 20cm between rows. Planting must be shallow with the top of the bulb remaining visible. One bulb per point is planted.


The beds are top-dressed with 120g/m2 compound fertilizer 12:12:17:2 + TE at t and 5 weeks after planting. Foliar fertilizer is givem at 4 and 6 weeks after planting.


Watering is very critical during the vegetative and bulbing stages of shallot growth. The plants must be watered twice daily especially during the dry weather. Watering frequency is reduced once the bulb is near to maturity. Watering has to be stopped completely one week prior to harvesting.


Some varieities of shallot produce inflorescene spears. These has to be removed in order to conserve the food for bulb developemtn. The inflorescene spears can either be used as food or for floral arrangement.

Pest and Disease

Onion thrips (Thrips tabaci) are the major pest of shallots. Their attack leaves results dramatic reduction in foliage quality. Use Malathion to control thrips at 0.75 - 1.5 kg per ha or Fenitrothion at 0.1 - 0.5 kg per ha.

Downy mildew (Peronosphora destructor) and Purple Blotch (Alternaria porri) are the major leaf diseases in shalot. These diseases can be controlled using Copper fungicide at 0.2% a.1. for treating the downy milder and for the purple blotch, Maneb, Mencozeb or Zineb could be used.

Bulb rot is caused by Fusarium sp. Regular spraying of Benlate or Mancozeb gives effective control. Avoid planting during the wet season.


Harvesting period must not coincide with the wet or 'landas' seasin to minimise bulb rot. The buls are harvested 8-9 weeks after planting. Mature bulbs are ready for harvesting when the tops fall over and the leaves dried up. The uprooted bulbs are air-dried for 10-14 days. Dried leaves are cut off about 2.5 cm from the bulb and the outer scale leaves removed. The cleaned bulbs are air dried for another week before storing and selling. No direct drying of the bulbs should be carried out to avoid scorching damage.


Bulbs are graded according to sizes. Super grade bulbs have diameter of 2.5 cm or more, grade A bulbs 1.9-2.5cm and grade B buls 1.3-1.9cm.


With good management and favourable weather conditions, a yield of 6-8 t/ha can be obtained.

Financial Returns

It is estimated that the total cost for one hectare of shallot production is RM19,400.00. Most of this goes to the purchase of planting materials and fertilizers. The net return (assuming yield of 6 t/ha at RM3.50/ kg) is RM1,600.00.

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Contribution: SRO Lim Lee, Lee Agriculture Research Centre

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