University of California

Inheritance of bulb color in the onion (Allium cepa L.)


M. W. El-Shafie
G. N. Davis

Authors Affiliations

M. W. El-Shafie was a former graduate student in the Department of Vegetable Crops, Davis. He is now employed by the Egyptian government; G. N. Davis was Professor of Vegetable Crops and Olericulturist in the Experiment Station, Davis.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 38(17):607-622. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v38n17p607. December 1967.

PDF of full article, Cite this article


The present study on inheritance of bulb color in onions continues work begun 10 years ago at the United States Department of Agriculture. Results obtained in F1, F2, F3, and backcross progenies of several varieties and lines are explained by assuming that five major genes, I, C, G, L, and R (each with two alleles) interact, and segregate independently of each other. The five genes act in a specific order on a biochemical pathway that leads to pigment formation. A diagram for such a pathway, showing the action of each gene, is proposed. Four of the genes, I, C, L, and R, were reported previously by other workers. (L and R are the designations given by us to the complementary genes reported by (Jones and Peterson, 1952). The fifth gene, G, is proposed in the present study. The results of several of the crosses cannot be explained without its presence.

The density of golden yellow and red colors is apparently controlled by several microgenes; i.e., it is quantitatively inherited. Quantitative inheritance is not discussed in the analysis of the crosses, because this subject requires further investigation.

The study also further substantiates the presence of the four genes previously reported.

Literature Cited

Alston R. E. Effect of light upon leucoanthocyanin synthesis in Impatiens balsamina. Bot. Gaz. 1958. 120:99-101.

Brandwein B. J. The pigments in three cultivars of the common onion (Allium cepa). Jour. Food Sci. 1965. 30(4):680-85.

Clarke A. E., Jones H. A., Little T. M. Inheritance of bulb color in the onion. Genetics. 1944. 29:569-75.

Davis E. W. Rapid identification of recessive onion bulbs by use of ammonia fumes. Jour. Hered. 1954. 45:122

Hillis W. E. Formation of leuco-anthocyanins in Eucalypt tissues. Nature. 1955. 175:597-98. DOI: 10.1038/175597b0 [CrossRef]

Jones H. A. Cytology, genetics and breeding. Herbertia. 1946. 11:275-94.

Jones H. A., Emsweller S. L. Methods of breeding onions. Hilgardia. 1933. 7(16):625-42. DOI: 10.3733/hilg.v07n16p625 [CrossRef]

Jones H. A., Mann L. K. Onions and their allies. 1963. New York: Interscience Publishers. 286p. pp. DOI: 10.1097/00010694-196407000-00013 [CrossRef]

Jones H. A., Peterson C. E. Complementary factors for light red bulb color in onions. Proc. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 1952. 59:457

Krugman S. The anthocyanin and leuco-anthocyanins of sugar pine seedlings. Forest Sci. 1956. 2(1):273-80.

Maerz A., Paul M. R. Dictionary of color. 1930. New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. 207p. pp.

Meunissier A. Expériences génetiques faites à verrière. Bul. Soc. Acclim. Fr. 1918. 65:81-90.

Perkin A. G., Hummel J. J. Occurrence of quercetin in the outer skins of the bulb of the onion (Allium cepa). Jour. Chem. Soc. 1896. 69:1295-98.

Reiman G. H. Genetic factors for pigmentation in the onion and their relation to disease resistance. Jour. Agr. Res. 1931. 42:251-78.

Tschermak E. Über den gegenwärtigen Stand der Gemüsenzüchtung. Z. Zucht. 1916. 4:65-104.

Walker J. C. Disease resistance to onion smudge. Jour. Agr. Res. 1923. 24:1019

El-Shafie M, Davis G. 1967. Inheritance of bulb color in the onion (Allium cepa L.). Hilgardia 38(17):607-622. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v38n17p607
Webmaster Email: wsuckow@ucanr.edu