11 September 1998

Linseed has place in UK, say breeders

WINTER linseed has had a mixed harvest, prompting some growers to drop it, but breeders remain adamant it has a place in UK cropping.

"I feel it is too unreliable," says Charles Carter, manager at Harps Farm, Great Halingbury, Essex, who has grown the crop for three years.

For the second season running, yields of Oliver at 1.2-1.8t/ha (10-15cwt/acre) are well short of his 2.5t/ha (1t/acre) target, and straw disposal has caused problems. "We have dropped it – unless we run out of oilseed rape seed," he says.

Sticking with it

With similar yields, Lincs grower Steven Welbourn is sticking with the crop. "It is worth growing while the subsidy stays the same," he maintains. "We only budgeted for 12cwt/acre, so we are happy with 13cwt/acre cleaned and dressed from this years crop." Again straw disposal caused headaches, so baling for building sugar beet clamps is planned for next years residues.

At ADAS Bridgets in Hants, Martin Froment reports Oliver yields of 2.3-3t/ha (18-24cwt/acre), thanks to no frost losses. "Last year winter kill meant we averaged only 1.4t/ha," he says.

Yet in Suffolk, Rushbrooke Farms manager Dominic Watts Oliver yield tumbled to 0.9t/ha, (7cwt/acre)

"It was a disaster. Late drilled, badly affected by the wet November, and knocked by trifluralin herbicide," he says.

Seed sales up

Oliver breeder Semundo reports seed sales ahead of last year, despite this years variable results. Over-thick crops causing lodging and disease are blamed for lower yields, but cutting seed rates this autumn is not advised in case of poor establishment and bigger losses in harsher winters.

"We are completely confident in the crop," maintains sales director Jeremy Taylor who says average yield this season has been about 1.7t/ha (14cwt/acre).

Dalgetys Julie Goult echoes this figure, but says spring yields are more promising. "For many people early harvest of the winter crop hasnt made up for the shortfall in yield. Early spring crops are doing over 2t/ha," she says. &#42