What’s that blue crop growing in your field?

May 28, 2010

A few neighbours have stopped us and asked ‘What’s that blue crop growing in your fields?’ Well, it is linseed which is also sometimes known as flax. This year it is being used as a break crop instead of the usual oil seed rape or winter beans.

Linseed can be planted in the Autumn (Winter Linseed) or the Spring.  Historically, winter linseed has been quite a difficult and temperamental crop to grow because it is sensitive to the climate and could suffer badly in harsh winters but, if the winters are mild then often the crop becomes too thick.

The crop below was planted last Autumn and will be harvested on the farm this year, probably at the end of July or early August.

linseed - view from Newland bank

linseed - view from Newland bank

It was sown using the direct drill. It is a beneficial crop to grow on the farm as it allows the farmer to control some weeds more easily than in wheat, and should allow an easy low till entry into wheat.  Slugs do not appear to like linseed and no chemical pesticide control is normally required.

linseed flower

linseed flower

The yield for winter linseed should be in the range 2.5 – 3.5 t/ha (1.0 – 1.4 t/ac) however, as this is the first year we have grown the crop, we will have to wait and see if our expectations have been met.

Traditionally linseed has been grown because of the oil it produces; this is added to paints and varnishes and assists with the drying and hardening processes.  More recently linseed seeds are used in health foods because it is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega 3 and 6. It can also be added to animal feeds and has been woven to make a fabric.

linseed in flower

linseed in flower

The linseed plants can grow up to a metre tall but height is normally controlled to about 50cm.  Linseed produces very pretty, light blue flowers.

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