15 August 1997

Bad season blamed for low winter linseed yield

By Andrew Blake

WINTER linseed enthusiasts are blaming an unkind season for mainly disappointing yields.

Farm reports show output often well below expectations and the performance of some southern crops is said to be disastrous.

A dry autumn which hampered establishment, frost heave, pigeons, spring drought, thrips, botrytis and poor pollination all helped slash yields to as low as 0.6t/ha (5cwt/acre) and less.

Estimates suggest that at 30,000ha (74,000 acres) the 1996/97 crop area is three times bigger than last season. The poor results are bound to slow further expansion, suggests Dalgetys Julie Goult.

"Average yield for our seed crops is 12-16cwt/acre, which is not particularly hot. It seems it is the same across all varieties. We were hoping for 1t/acre." The firm markets Arctica, Nordica and Fjord.

Several Dalgety growers will not grow the crop again until more agronomy advice is forthcoming, she admits. But others are said to be well pleased with the crops earliness to combine.

Main key to low yields is poor seed set, Miss Goult speculates. With thousand grain weight generally lower than spring varieties there needs to be plenty of seeds a boll to give good yields, she explains.

Winter linseed has been far from a disaster, maintains Semundos Fiona Davies. "It has been a really testing season. I do not foresee us getting thrips and monsoons every year. There has also been an awful lot of Septoria in some crops."

Mean yield will be about 1.9t/ha (15cwt/acre) compared with 2.5t/ha (1t/acre) last season, she estimates. "But we have had people with over 3t/ha of Oliver.

"I am still quite optimistic, though I accept some growers will be put off."

WINTER LINSEED

&#8226 Yields down at least 25%.

&#8226 Southern crops poorest.

&#8226 Seasonal factors to blame.

&#8226 Agronomy learning curves.