What is in this article?:
- Flax: A winter crop option for South Carolina growers
- No double-cropping disadvantages
- Variable rate fertilizer
• Fiber flax is a perfect fit for the heavier, wetter type soils in both South and North Carolina, which is just the opposite for planting wheat, which needs to be on more sandy soils.
• The crop offers additional income and earliness that will enable the farmer to plant early beans, grain sorghum and possibly cotton.
• This flexibility will not only provide additional income, but a rotational option, not available in the past.
GETTING A UNIFORM stand is the key to flax production, says South Carolina grower Neal Baxley.
No double-cropping disadvantages
“Flax is different from any of the crops we grow and there doesn’t seem to be any disadvantage to double-cropping it with any of our spring planted crops, as long as we can get the flax out and the other planted in a timely manner,” he adds.
The flax has to be in a uniform plant bed so it can be cut approximately an inch above the soil surface. The harvest ‘sweet spot’ allows the cutting blade to slice through the dried stems with no problem.
However, sometimes only an inch or so too high and the sturdy flax fiber that is in such demand by Crailar becomes a terror to cut.
“The precise nature of growing and harvesting flax makes it a nearly ideal crop to no-till plant behind other crops. All you have left is a short stem from the harvested plant, and none of the crop debris you get from wheat. That’s a big advantage for us in growing flax,” Baxley says.
Last year the South Carolina grower planted flax in twin 7.5 inch rows. “We had a good seedbed and the flax grew fine in the early stages, then we got a lot lodging problems,” he says.
“This time we broadcast the seed and used a harrow to lightly disk it into the soil. The flax seed are tiny, so this worked out well. And, we got a better stand and it took less time to plant this year.
“We tried to get 125 pounds of seed per acre — that looks like it’s going to be about right based on our crop this year.
“Seed cost is always an issue, but with flax, Crailar provides the seed, and they were very supportive in helping us figure out the best way to get a good stand,” the South Carolina grower says.
“We’ve had an excellent business relationship with Crailar both years we’ve grown flax. Both Duncan Skelton, who works in their Pamplico facility and Steve Sandroni have been very helpful and very timely in getting us information about growing the crop,” Baxley says.
For example, he adds, last year we were planning to sell the company the seed from our flax crop. We got powdery mildew in our crop and the seed couldn’t be used. Despite this, the company paid us some for the seed — and they didn’t have to do that, Baxley points out.
“Powdery mildew was most likely more a result of unusual weather we had last year. This year we’ve had no disease problems or insect problems, really very few production problems of any kind with the flax,” he adds.