22 December 1995

Southern chill fails to harm

winter linseed

WINTER linseed has shrugged off recent chills across the south. But it is too soon to predict how further cold snaps might the affect this relatively novel crop.

In Devon, contractor and share farmer Mark Stevens says his 9.3ha (23 acres) of Arctica, drilled on Oct 2 at Huish Barton Farm, Merton, is "looking fine" despite temperatures down to -4C (25F).

The seed crop, sown into "fairly heavy clay loam" after two years of winter barley, is being tested as an alternative to maize. A policy change, cutting livestock numbers, means oilseed rape is also being examined as a cereal break."Ive been involved with spring linseed and flax, but we went for the winter variety because it should yield better and avoid a late harvest."

Fit to cut

Local agronomist, Dalgetys John Peak, expects the Arctica to be fit to cut six weeks before spring types in the area. "Its gone a slightly darker green but seems to be holding up nicely."

In Kent, sowing date trials of the Semundo variety Oliver, seem to be recovering from a "testing" cold spell earlier in the month, according to Wye Colleges crop production specialist David Scarisbrick.

"We had a good covering of snow with temperatures below zero for a few nights and biting winds. At the moment, it seems the earliest sown was the most vulnerable. It flopped over and is still bent. But there isnt any rot and I think it should come back. Im not unduly concerned."

NIABs oilseeds specialist Simon Kightley believes true assessment of the winter hardiness of the new varieties under UK conditions will only be possible in the spring.

Cold weather has done little to change the appearance of this Arctica winter linseed at Huish Barton Farm, Devon, drilled into heavy land six weeks earlier on

Oct 2.