Spring linseed – a great break crop

Avadex Excel 15G (tri-allate) can be used in winter or spring linseed as an EAMU. One of the benefits of growing spring linseed is that it can be used to control difficult weeds on the farm, such as black-grass, brome and a host of difficult to control broad-leaved weeds too – cleavers, chickweed, common poppy, field speedwell, forget-me-not, ivy-leaved speedwell, and red dead nettle. “Spring linseed is expected to increase or at least remain stable this year,” according to Nigel Padbury, seeds and marketing manager for Premium Crops. The June Census puts the linseed area at around 27,000 hectares.

Nigel explains that linseed has 3 distinct markets. In the past it was grown for specialist industrial oils. “But now there is the human health food sector for whole grains and also the animal feed sector. There are both brown and yellow linseed varieties. The original market of industrial oil is colour-blind so either type of linseed was OK. In the human health sector the colour is important but perhaps more of a distinction are those varieties with high ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid) or high Omega – 3 linseed. Nulin (or VT50) is a high ALA variety and Omegalin a high Omega 3 variety which have appeal in the animal feed market. These specialist varieties enjoy a good premium. Growers can have confidence that there is a market for their crop even before they plant.”

Nigel Padbury says that profitability of spring linseed is an important driver “Spring linseed has one of the highest Gross Margins of any spring crop. At £350/tonne plus low inputs and an expected yield of 2.4 to 2.7 t/ha, its Gross margin in 2018 is calculated to be £578/hectare compared with £410 for spring oilseed rape and £445 for malting spring barley. It is certainly much more profitable than the pulses which have GMs of around £300/ha and linseed is easier to grow too. If, like many farmers in recent years, you have decided to move away from a dominant winter crop rotation and introduce some spring cropping e.g. to get rid of problem weeds, then it makes sense to choose the crop that brings in the most money to the farm business. All of our Premium Crop growers grow linseed under contract, which is not the case for all seed suppliers.”

“We have between 250 and 300 growers and estimate we have around half the market so 500 growers could be growing linseed now,” says Nigel. “The new Easy Cut varieties from Premium Crops (Empress, Marquise and Altess) have lower fibre content in their stems (25% less) and are much easier to cut. Harvest is much earlier than it used to be, fitting in behind the wheat in late August to early September,” he says.

“We understand more and more about the crops agronomy. By improving fertility and soil aeration, wheat crops grown after linseed have higher yields; Trials in France show a 4% yield benefit for wheat following linseed compared with wheat following oilseed rape,” says recently appointed agronomist for Premium Crops, Hannah Foxall. “Part of Hannah’s responsibility is to communicate with growers via regular crop bulletins, including a combining guide,” explains Nigel.

Hannah adds that the recent cold snap may put growers off some early drilled spring crops, but they have until the end of March or early April to decide if they want to drill linseed.

“Spring linseed is an effective cleaning crop when it comes to difficult to control grass-weeds such as black-grass and brome, (which has recently been identified as the second most difficult weed to control in an AHDB survey). With sowing from the end of March through to mid-April, growers can spray off grass-weeds with glyphosate in a stale seedbed. Then Avadex Excel 15G (tri-allate) can be applied pre-emergence, followed by Centurion Max (clethodim) post-emergence if required,” advises Rob Plaice, technical manager for Gowan who market tri-allate in the UK.

“Avadex Granules has an EAMU for use pre-emergence in linseed. It is used widely in weed control programmes to help in the control of black-grass, brome, rye-grass and wild-oats,” says Robert Plaice, “Our liquid formulation Avadex Factor does not have this EAMU so it is just the granules that can be used.”

For any EAMU, growers should obtain a copy of the notice of approval via the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) web site, or NFU. In the EAMU notice of approval, CRD point out that liability lies with the user and growers are advised to test a small area of crop prior to commercial use.

 

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About The Author

Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.