Developing agronomic practices for flax production in the Northeast
With uncertain stability and increasing grain, fuel, and energy costs, many livestock farmers want to work towards innovative strategies to gain an advantage in the marketplace. . Flax is a new crop to the region but is generating lots of interest by farmers and consumers. Flax is well known for having high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids making this a plant that has benefits for human and animal health. Hence flax is a versatile crop that can provide many services and markets for the farmer. Development of regional production practices will assist farmers with producing flax a high value oilseed crop.
Therefore the objective of this project is to develop varietal recommendations, weed management strategies, and proper planting date ranges to improve the yield and quality of flax in the Northeast. Research was conducted in 2013 and further replication of some of the studies continued into 2014. The variety trial and weed control trial were repeated at Borderview Farm in Alburgh, VT.
Variety trial yields were poor due to extreme rain events shortly following planting. Plants were stunted and populations were diminished allowing for high weed populations. Yields ranged from just over 200 to 650 lbs of seed per acre. Oil content was determined for all 12 varieties and no difference was detected among them. The weed control study was far more successful with yields averaging 1150 lbs per acre. These yields are comparable to other flax growing regions. Weed pressure was minimal in all plots regardless of weed control technique so no differences were found among treatments.
Overall, cultivation approximately one month after planting reduced weed pressure in the flax plots by about 90%. Cultivating with a Schmotzer hoe removed 91% of all weeds, while tine-weeding removed 88%. There was no significant difference in the amount of weeds removed from either cultivation technique. Cultivation appears to be an adequate technique to control weeds in flax especially under moderate weed pressure. Timing of the cultivation is important for successful removal of weed species. The cultivation occurred when the weeds were in the cotyledon to first leaf stages making them easier to remove with mechanical equipment.
Outreach through articles, field days, and conferences had led to more than 1000 farmers learning about best practices for flax production in the Northeast.
OBJECTIVE 1 is to identify regionally-adapted brown and golden flax genotypes that offer an optimal combination of early vigor, disease resistance, weed competitiveness, yield and oilseed quality—characteristics that serve at the foundation of growers’ management strategies.
OBJECTIVE 2 is to evaluate weed management strategies in flax. Growers have identified severe weed competition as a barrier to success with flax. Since herbicide options are limited and many growers also prefer non-herbicide control option new and innovative practices need to be evaluated. We expect narrow row, high-density sowing and wide-row/cultivation strategies, which have performed impressively in small grain production, to provide effective weed management in flax. In addition, there is evidence from other regions that underseeding flax with clover may reduce weed pressure.
OBJECTIVE 3 is to identify proper planting dates required to maximize flax yield and quality of crops. Cool season crops such as flax are sensitive to late planting as warm temperatures can have an impact on seed set. Through this project we will conduct a planting date study with two flax varieties to determine the range of best possible planting dates for our region.
Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) is a multi-purpose crop grown for its fiber, oil (linseed oil), and meal. The importance of flax as a major crop in the United States dropped drastically in the 1980’s when latex paints replaced linseed oil based paint. Recently there has been renewed interest in flax, both for human consumption and for animal feed, for its high levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. This variety trial was established to determine what flax varieties can grow and thrive in the Northeast.
MATERIALS AND METHODS-Variety trial
Twelve flax varieties were planted at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, VT on 26-Apr 2014. The previous crop was sod. The field was disked and spike tooth harrowed prior to planting. Plots were seeded with a Great Plains Cone Seeder at a seeding rate of 50 lbs acre-1.
Flax plots were harvested with an Almaco SP50 small plot combine on 6-Sep 2014. The harvest area was 5’ x 20’. Seed was cleaned with a small Clipper M2B cleaner (A.T. Ferrell, Bluffton, IN). Oil was extruded from the seed in September of 2014. Results were analyzed with an analysis of variance in SAS (Cary, NC). The Least Significant Difference (LSD) procedure was used to separate cultivar means when the F-test was significant (p< 0.10).
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION-variety tral
Flax varieties, yields and oil yields are listed in Table 1. Flax yields ranged from 256 to 634 lbs. acre-1, which is much lower than typical yields from regions where flax is normally grown. Yield was mostly compromised due to poor plant vigor and high weed pressure. Heavy rains following planting led to poor emergence. Oil content was
Flax is a spring annual that is usually planted as early as the ground can be worked. One of the main challenges growing flax is weed control. Flax plants compete poorly with fast growing weeds due to its relatively short height (between 12 and 36 inches when mature) and tiny leaves. This trial was initiated to see if management, including different row spacing and cultivation, would affect weed densities in flax.
MATERIALS AND METHODS-Weed control
This trial was planted at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, VT on 9-May 2014. The previous crop was corn with rye cover crop. The field was disked and spike tooth harrowed prior to planting. Plots were seeded with variety ‘Rahab 94’ at a seeding rate of 50 lbs acre-1. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with four replications. Four weed control techniques were compared against a control of standard 6” row spacing and no cultivation (Table 2). The narrow row treatment was planted with a Kverneland grain drill at 4.5” row spacing. The wide row treatment was also planted with a Kverneland grain drill (by plugging every other hole in the hopper for 9” row spacing) and cultivated with a Schmotzer hoe on 9-Jun. The tine-weed treatment was planted with a Great Plains grain drill at 6” row spacing and tine-weeded on 2-Jun. The inter-seed treatment was planted with a Great Plains grain drill at standard 6” row spacing with the addition of Ladino white clover at 6 lbs. acre-1 and Laura Meadow Fescue at 12 lbs. acre-1 on 15-May.
Annual and perennial broadleaf and grass weeds were counted before and after cultivation on 2-Jun for tine-weeding and 9-Jun for Schmotzer hoeing. Flax plots were cut and swathed on 22-Aug and picked up with an Almaco SPC50 small plot combine on 26-Aug 2014. The harvest area was 5’ x 20’. Seed was cleaned with a small Clipper M2B cleaner (A.T. Ferrell, Bluffton, IN). Results were analyzed with an analysis of variance in SAS (Cary, NC). The Least Significant Difference (LSD) procedure was used to separate cultivar means when the F-test was significant (p< 0.10).
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION-Weed control
Seasonal precipitation and temperature recorded at a weather station in Alburgh, VT are shown in Table 3. From May to August, there was an accumulation of 4,109 Growing Degree Days (GDDs) in Alburgh which is 2 GDDs more than the 30-year average. Flax needs 1,603 GDDs to reach maturity.
Flax yields averaged 1,158 lbs. acre-1 in 2014 (Table 2). There was no significant difference in yields or test weight amongst any of the weed control techniques. However, the average yield was more than double the 2013 average. The reasons for this increase in yield likely include lower weed pressure and better harvest technique. Overall, the weed pressure in 2014 was much less than 2013. The average weed populations were 169 weeds meter-2 compared to 423 weeds meter-2 in 2013. Likely the low weed pressure experienced by flax in 2014 resulted in adequate yields regardless of weed control technique. To harvest, plots were cut and swathed, and picked up with a combine four days later. This technique allowed the flax and weed biomass to dry down. Additional adjustments to the combine, such as turning the air off, prevented flax seed from being lost in the combine.
Overall, cultivation approximately one month after planting reduced weed pressure in the flax plots by about 90% (Table 3). Cultivating with a Schmotzer hoe removed 91% of all weeds, while tine-weeding removed 88%. There was no significant difference in the amount of weeds removed from either cultivation technique. Cultivation appears to be an adequate technique to control weeds in flax especially under moderate weed pressure. Timing of the cultivation is important for successful removal of weed species. The cultivation occurred when the weeds were in the cotyledon to first leaf stages making them easier to remove with mechanical equipment.
OUTREACH & EDUCATION
Three research reports from 2013 have been generated and two from the 2014 season. These research reports have been developed into a farmer-friendly format and posted on the UVM Northwest Crop and Soil website (uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/. The 2013 reports were also widely distrubted at conferences, workshops and field days during 2014.
The flax research was presented to 135 attendees at the 2014 annual Grain Growers Conference held in March of 2014. Research reports were distributed.
Flax was also highlighted at the UVM Extension Crop and Soil Field Day held at Borderview Farm on July 24th of 2014. This event drew approximately 225 people from the region. At the field day flax weed controland variety trial research was highlighted and 2013 data shared with attendees.
An article on the flax weed control project was developed and published in the December 2014 Northern Grain Growers Association Newsletter. The newsletter is distributed to over 300 members.
Final results from the flax project will be presented at the NY Grain Conference as well as the VT Grain Conference both to be held in early March.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Since the beginning of the project the major outcomes has been the development of research reports for delivery to the farming community during the winter of 2014 and 2015. Thus far we provided approximately 1025 farms and service providers with knowledge on how to produce flax in the northeast. A video as well as a flax bulletin will be produced and distributed by the end of the project period.
Since the onset of the project there has been one farmer to adopt narrow row flax production to achieve better weed control and higher yields. One farm has adopted a new variety as well as interseeding clover as a result of this project.
421 Trumpass Road
Westfield, VT 05874
Office Phone: 8029997722
54 N. Main Street
Alburg, VT 05440
Office Phone: 8027963292