1 August 1997

Tunnel widens linseed market

A CROSS-CHANNEL market coupled with high yields has made winter linseed a hit with first-time grower Simon Ashworth.

Potatoes are the main money maker at Scotney Court Farm, Lydd, Kent. Until last autumn three wheats were grown in between. "I had been looking for a good break crop for a long time," says Mr Ashworth. "We used to grow oilseed rape, but it became a problem weed in potatoes and the August drilling date clashed with other farming operations."

The 42.5ha (105 acres) of linseed replaces the second wheat, meaning all first wheats are now grown. To make room for that crop the linseed needed to be sold quickly. Rather than store it off farm until the UK crush started, Mr Ashworth sold it through his local Soufflet office for export.

Director, Paul Calver, sent it to Belgium via the Channel Tunnel for about £2/t more than it would have cost to haul to Selby, Yorks, the nearest linseed crushing plant.

Although spring linseed has travelled that route before, this is the first time Mr Calver has sent winter linseed across the Channel.

"Traditionally, UK crushers have only had spring linseed to look at. Plants are geared to a late September intake," says Mr Calver. "Belgian crushers use Canadian linseed, which is not available until late October. Anything they can get extends the use of their plant."

Mr Ashworth received £131.50/t for the seed. "I was not prepared to gamble on long odds. That works out at about £150/t for November movement, which I budgeted for. I think I would have been lucky to get that with the way prices are going."

The crop performed well on the well-bodied soils. It was left to ripen naturally, and the first 24ha (60 acres) cut last weekend yielded 3t/ha (24.6cwt) at under 9% moisture. The remaining area has been left a couple more days to ripen.

The crop was drilled to establish 720 plants a sq m, 80% of the recommended seed rate. "The seed was expensive, and we are in a soft, sunny corner of the country." Seedlings emerged well and grew strongly. A light snow covering protected them from the January chill. Inputs were few (see box).

"The crop is very easy to grow," says Mr Ashworth. "There is no need for high clearance machinery, it leaves little debris so does not encourage slugs, and we have started cultivating for the next crop already."

CROP INPUTS

&#8226 Base fertiliser – five bags of 0:24:24/ha.

&#8226 Autumn weed control – pre-emergence trifluralin.

&#8226 Spring weed control – Ally.

&#8226 Nitrogen – 43kg/ha (34.5 units/acre).

Winter linseed hit 3t/ha for Kent grower Simon Ashworth. Thanks to the Channel Tunnel, the crop has been sold for crushing in Belgium.