The first ever leek agronomy day, held last week by the Leek Growers Association (LGA) at Nightlayer's Waldersey Farm in Norfolk, has been hailed as a success.
More than 70 delegates attended and more than 40 also viewed the field trial results, organised by NIAB.
At the trials, Previta from Enza topped the productivity table, with a marketable yield of 29.5 tonnes a hectare.
According to NIAB vegetable specialist Bruce Napier "There were also some promising new varieties from Tozer and Nickerson Zwaan, at least as good as Belton, which was the control."
Eight seed companies entered a total of 24 varieties. Having been drilled on 5 May last year, five were harvested on 14 December, the remaining 19 on 1 February this year.
"It took a couple of days before the later-harvested leeks thawed out and we could grade them," said Napier. "But we didn't see the effect of earlier frosts, which clobbered crops in late 2010."
He added: "Some of the lower-yielding varieties, such as Bluebell from Seminis, showed good population and might have harvested better in March or April. But in a comparative trial you can't harvest each on its own optimum date."
PR focus on health
Now in its fifth year, the Leek Growers Association (LGA)-funded British leeks PR campaign will this year promote the vegetables as "the food for champions".
The LGA has worked with sports nutritionist Dr Sarah Schenker to develop a range of recipes and advice for consumers that emphasise leeks' many nutritional benefits.
According to Carole Pendle of Pendle PR, the agency handling the campaign: "Leeks are bought more by an older demographic and it is intended that the theme of sports and healthy eating will encourage younger consumers to use them in their cooking."