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.
Variable rate fertilizer
They zone sample their farm and use variable rate application for fertilizer on their crops. This year’s flax was planted in mid-November, though mid-October as preferred.
They put down about 30 units of nitrogen at planting and the crop took off early. Once it starts to cover the soil, it’s so thick that weeds aren’t a problem.
In February, they came back with another application of potash and phosphorus based on the zone sample and another 50 units of nitrogen.
As a precaution, they applied a fungicide to protect against powdery mildew, though that proved to be unnecessary this time around.
It’s important to keep flax free of weeds like wild radish, wild mustard or any other weed that could get in the flax fiber and cause greening in the production process, Baxley says. So far, he adds, weed control, and in reality all pest control problems, have been at a minimum with flax.
“We were also pleasantly surprised at how little affect flax has on soil nutrients. We thought going into our first year it would take most of the nutrients out of the soil, but our soil tests show little impact on the soil, Baxley adds.
Sandroni, who is vice-president for agriculture for Crailar, has worked with a number of crops in the Southeast during his career, says flax offers some different opportunities for growers in South Carolina.
“I see this crop as a great opportunity for the farmer to fully utilize his resources. 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, that he otherwise would not have had in the past,” Sandroni says.
Sandroni also says there are about 30 growers and 3,000 acres currently in production in South Carolina. He adds that changes in farm practices and understanding more about the crop, has led to higher yields and should open the door for more farmers to try flax, this fall.
“This year we are looking at an average two ton per acre yield, with several growers who should top three tons per acre. Since Crailar Inc. is paying $250 per ton that is a gross margin of $750 per acre. There are not many winter crops that can net you $500 per acre,” he says.
For more information about flax and growing the crop under contract with Crailar, growers can contact Sandroni directly at 314-308-0869.
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