Leeks: Improving quality and extending the season in late crops in the UK


FV 387b - Leeks: Improving quality and extending the season in late crops in the UK

Start Date: 
Completion Date: 
Project Leader: 
David Norman
FV 387b

Industry representative: Patrick Allpress, Allpress Farms

HDC project cost: £48,650


Project summary
This project aims to investigate the effects of the application of gibberellins to leeks to improve stem length on winter hardy short stemmed leeks. The project will examine the timing and frequency of application of gibberellins to commercial field plots of cv Triton. The leek growers association asked for this work to be done over two years to further evaluate the effects of gibberellins whilst keeping a watching brief on the possible development of maleic hydrazide, effects on quality, stem length, yield and bolting will be monitored.
Aims and objectives:
Project aim(s):
To further investigate the potential for extending the production season for UK leeks by improving late season quality and reliability of production.
Project objective(s):
Further evaluation of the potential for gibberellins to promote stem extension in short stemmed, winter hardy leek types, so improving the yield, quality and reliability for late leeks in the UK market.
Benefits to industry:
Currently the UK supplies home grown leeks from around the 1st July until the end of April, cold storage can increase the length of supply by a few weeks into May.
The total value of UK leek production is around £33,000,000 (source Defra hort. Stats 2012). Extending home production and increasing reliability during adverse weather could add £2-2.5 million gross output for UK leek growers and expand production from 1,800ha to 2,000ha.
Leek production in the post-Christmas period between January and May is unreliable because of the effects of severe frosty weather damaging leeks and the fact that the most frost tolerant varieties tend to have shorter stems which are lower yielding and less favoured by the market. Longer stemmed varieties tend to be more frost susceptible as well as being quicker to bolt.
Improving the quality and reliability of late leeks would reduce imports and allow more UK leeks to be grown.