Winter linseeds still worthwhile

3 September 1999

Winter linseeds still worthwhile

ONE Yorkshire grower has topped 2.5t/ha (1t/acre) with winter linseed for the past four years.

Growing it as a crop, not just for subsidy, and optimising husbandry are the keys to his success. "The crop is a consistent performer across a range of soils," says Clifford Spencer, of Springdale Farm, Rudston, near Driffield. This year Oliver did 2.8t/ha (23cwt/acre), close to his best ever 3.3t/ha (27cwt/acre) last year.

His advice is not to compromise with the seed-bed, drilling time, or inputs. Pick a good site, prepare a fine, firm, uncompacted seed-bed and drill when conditions allow in early/mid-September, he says. It is also important not to cut the seed-rate.

A thin population can easily suffer losses in a cold spell. "I sow 1000 seeds a sq m. But drilling a high rate any earlier would be a recipe for disaster, as the crop would go flat."

Some herbicides can be too hot for comfort, a classic mistake being to incorporate Treflan (trifluralin) into the seed-bed, he adds. Spray it on post-drilling, he advises. At Home Farm, Snodland, near Rochester, Kent, David Linghams crop stood well and was combined in the last week of July. "We ended up with 92t of Oliver off 85 acres, which was better than last year when, because 60% of the crop was on the floor, we combined just 72t off 90 acres," he says.

Well timed pgr and fungicide made a big difference.

In Suffolk Mike Porter has grown winter linseed on his 340ha (840-acre) Hill House Farm at Walpole, near Halesworth, for two years, and Linola for the previous three.

"I believe winter linseed is a crop which can stand on its own two feet both economically and physically if it is grown properly. If it is it will generate worthwhile returns. Last year 22.7ha of Oscar did extremely well, yielding 3.43t/ha sold. That was easily the best I have ever done." &#42

Consider autumn sowing this year

Do not leave linseed out of this years cropping plans and be sure to consider the autumn-sown option, says breeder Semundo. Despite this seasons huge linseed crop, Europe continues to be a deficit area for its oil and imports continue to flood in from Canada to meet demand from industry. And due to the impact of the strong £ on prices over the past year the area aid payment could be higher than anticipated for next year, says Jeremy Taylor of Semundo. That, and the staggered implementation of the EU reforms, means linseed continues to be an attractive option compared with the unclear short-term economic prospects for oilseed rape, he says. Gross margin potential for harvest 2000 looks good. Area aid could be £360-£375/ha (£146-£152/acre) and seed values about £120/t for early delivery. Variable costs for a typical 2.4t/ha (20cwt/acre) crop are £175/ha (£71/acre), leaving a margin of £473-£488/ha (£191-£197/acre).

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