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Commercial Farming of Leek Seedlings

The Basics of Commercial Farming with Leeks from Seedlings

Large-scale commercial farming with leeks is still limited in South Africa. It is challenging to propagate the vegetable from seed and it is thus recommended to order pest- and disease-free leek seedlings from commercial crop nurseries.

Growing from seedlings holds several benefits as opposed to propagating from seed:

• Pest- and disease-free plants are delivered to the farmer, providing good rootstock and thus improving the odds of crop success.

• Better uniformity of the crop, as the plants are the same height and have the same characteristics when delivered to the farmer.

• The farmer can plan planting and harvesting better because of more precise growth timelines.

• The risk of financial losses due to the failure of some seeds to germinate is eliminated.

• A shorter period between planting and harvesting means a lower risk of pest and weather damage.

• Expert advice and technical support available from nursery consultants.

• Higher crop yields and thus higher profits.

• The first chemical treatment is done while the plants are still at the nursery, providing the farmer with enough time to start their own chemical-treatment programme.

• Lower chemical costs because the initial treatment has already been performed.

• Reduced irrigation costs associated with seed germination and growth up to the height of leek seedlings that are ready to transplant to the field.

• No need for thinning out and thus unnecessary plant losses.

More About Leeks

The plant is related to the bulb onion and, therefore, vulnerable to similar pests and diseases. The same production methods are used. Instead of the normal onion’s tight bulb, the leek has a long, cylindrical bundle of leaves. The vegetable is popular for use in soups and the demand for it is thus highest during winter. Farmers hoping to get top prices for their crops should thus plant to harvest in the winter. One advantage that the vegetable has over its cousin, the onion, is that it does not have a set maturity level at which it must be harvested and sold. This means the farmer can start harvesting when the plant is still young. With a large segment of the leek market dedicated to dried soup powders, the harvesting can be done early on and the vegetable can be cut to the required size for the particular packaging.

The farmer can thus plant and harvest over several months according to the demand, which increases as the winter nears its peak. One challenge is the time it takes the vegetable to reach its optimal size, so it happens easily that a farmer plants too late in the hope of getting better prices. Growing directly from seed means having to plant in November when there is a risk of thunderstorms too. The field is also occupied for a long time and the cost of irrigation should also be considered. To this end, it is beneficial to propagate from seedlings, markedly reducing the time before harvesting can start. When growing from seedlings, a row spacing of 30 cm is recommended. Leave around 8 cm between plants in the row and plant deep to increase the length of the white shank.

Get in touch with Hishtil SA’s sales office for more information and quotes for bulk supply of leek seedlings to farms anywhere in South Africa.

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