Garlic scape removal

Sunday, June 30, 2019

If you haven’t signed up for it before, OMAFRA has a fantastic vegetable blog.  A couple of years ago, Travis Cranmer, OMAFRA’s Allium Specialist, wrote a great piece about the benefits of removing garlic scapes.

Figure 1. Yield and bulb weight in response to scape removal timing of
garlic cv. ‘Music’. (Zandstra, 2006)
John Zandstra did some research on scape removal and the influences it has on yield.  Scapes should be removed sooner rather than later to preserve yield and bulb size (Figure 1). The longer you leave the scapes growing in the field, the more energy the plant will divert to creating a flower and bulbils - to the detriment of bulb size and yield.

Figure 2. Influence of leaf removal on yields and bulb weights of
garlic cv ‘Music’. (Zandstra, 2000)
Best practices also suggest that the scapes should be removed by hand (Figure 2).  Using a sickle bar mower, or other mechanical means to remove the scape often damages leaves.  Damage to the leaves reduces the photosynthetic potential of the plant, resulting in less energy to be poured into bulb development.  In short, even a small percentage of leaf damage will reduce bulb weight and total yield so be careful when removing scapes!

Scape removal is also a good time to be on the lookout for leek moth damage in your crop. Leek moth is a new pest to Nova Scotia and has been found in Kings and Annapolis Counties.  Cornell has an excellent site devoted to providing further leek moth information.  If you grow garlic, leeks, or onions, I strongly suggest you make yourself familiar with this pest.

Leek moth damage on garlic, photo credit Amy Ivy, Cornell

Leek moth damage on garlic leaves, photo Amy Ivy, Cornell

Leek moth damage on garlic scapes, photo Scott Lewins, UVM