Optimizing Year Round Leek Production in the Ozarks

Project Overview

FNC13-928
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $7,231.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Daniel Roth
Elixir Farm

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Vegetables: leeks

Practices

  • Crop Production: high tunnels or hoop houses
  • Production Systems: Year-Round Production

    Summary:

    Successful Use of Leek Clones

    The Leek variety Giant Musselburgh provides some great benefits for reducing the length of time and amount of energy involved with the seedling stage of leek production. Musselburgh leeks naturally reproduce by producing small bulbs, or plant clones surrounding the stalk of the mature leek, around the same time as the leek produces seeds on its flower stalk.

    The research of comparing leek clones to plants started from seeds demonstrated that clones produce a heartier succession crop of leeks, especially with the thicker bulbs that form underground on older leeks.  The thinner clones with more leaf development were slower to advance their growth after transplanting.

    The examination of coppicing as an option to allow multiple cropping, while clones develop, proved that this is a possibility for farmers, but that the crop of clones was diminished, somewhat following the coppicing process.  It may be that this reduction, in size and quality in coppiced clones, was due to lack of shade after the leeks were coppiced.  In that case, a thicker companion crop that effectively shades the bed might have improved the number and quality of clones produced.  I tried peppers as a companion crop.  Choosing to try melons or cucumbers might have been a better choice, providing better shade for the coppiced leeks.

    Introduction:

    Project Background

    Elixir Farm is a small scale organic farm, specializing in mushroom production, grass fed beef, and high quality organic vegetable production.  The farm consists of 330 acres along the Bryant Creek in Ozark County in southern Missouri.

    Vegetables such as Leeks, garlic, potatoes, lettuce and other greens are grown outdoors in terraced beds and in 2 hoop houses during winter months.  Cover cropping and crop rotation are important components of the farming system at Elixir Farm. Cattle are managed with rotational grazing.  Crops and beef are sold primarily at farmer’s markets, and some wholesale, in St. Louis.

    The farm has been organic since the 70’s and certified organic for over 30 years.  Sustainable practices such as cover cropping and drip irrigation, floating row cover for frost protection, and planting on terraces (for water conservation)  have been used for over 20 years.  Grid tied solar power was set up here in 2007.  Frost proof tanks, portable electric fence, spring fed cattle watering, and management intensive grazing were implemented in the last 7 years.  Mushroom production using single tree selection for timber stand improvement has been in practice for the last 5 years.  

     

    Project objectives:

    Optimizing Organic Leek Production

    The research in this project intended to make several comparisons related to leek production and leek clone production.  I intended to assess replanted leek clones, compared with seedlings started from seeds, evaluating them for their rate of maturation and considering the amount of time and energy required for each production method.

    I also intended to assess different methods of producing leek clones.  Clones produced the usual way, from the base of overly mature leeks that have “bolted” and gone to seed, were compared with clones from leeks that were “coppiced”.  Coppiced leeks are ones that are completely cut off at about a half inch from the soil surface.  In the case of coppicing, clones continue to grow out of the leek root ball that remains in the soil.

    The final objective was to establish an understanding of how many successions of leek crops are possible in the warmer seasons of the year.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.