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• The demand for flax will be increasing dramatically and South Carolina is the epicenter for this growth in production.
Specialized equipment needed
Duncan notes that farmers are masters at adapting equipment to fit a crop’s needs and flax is one of the crops that will need some specialized equipment.
In South Carolina, flax is planted from the last two weeks of October to the first week of November. We want to get 6-8 inches of growth before we get the first hard freeze on it. When colder weather hits, flax goes dormant for 8-10 weeks.
When flax wakes up in the spring, nitrogen is applied and by the first week or two of April it will be ready to harvest seed and begin cutting.
Flax goes through a process called retting, basically a controlled rot. Bacteria in the field begin this process and a heavy crop of flax, 2.5-3 tons per acre, will need to be stirred up to get even retting.
“One precaution is that you cannot overload the baler. If you try to get that last little bit of flax, it tends to wrap around the baler. We baled 50 acres this spring, with no problems whatsoever. It just takes some good management practices and it’s not a problem,” Duncan says.
Within five years the company hopes to have enough market share for CraiLar products to demand up to 200,000 acres of flax, Duncan says.
“The company will pay a grower for seed and fiber. If a grower can produce 15 bushels of seed and 2.5 tons of fiber per acre, he should make close to $200 per acre above out of pocket costs.
“Obviously, if a grower devotes better land to flax and manages it more carefully, he can produce three tons per acre and 20 bushels of seed per acre, the profit above his out-of-pocket costs may be closer to $300 per acre, Duncan adds.