How can we grow flaxseed before winter?

Flaxseed is a good choice for diversifying cropping systems around winter time. Here is a step by step guideline on how to grow flaxseed in the winter.

What is the interest of growing flaxseed?

The agronomic and environmental benefits of oleaginous flaxseed, combined with the original properties of flaxseed oil, make it a diversification crop that can be introduced in a "winter" version in a wide range of crops.

Suitable for no-till fields, winter flaxseed reduces the risk of erosion by occupying the soil in the autumn and limits the impact of drought in late spring. Not very susceptible to pests, it makes the weeding of cereals or rapeseed easier (geranium, cruciferous…) by disrupting rotations. Its cultivation does not require any specific equipment and improves the dispatching of tasks on the farm.

In addition, many farmers are affected by sanitary issues which are often linked to rotations that are too short. Flaxseed is a good choice for 'alternating' crops and making a good return on investment. Farmers' interest in crops such as flax seed reflects their search for crop diversification at the head of crop rotation.

Choice of the plot is a key element for flaxseed growth success

The first key criterion is the choice of the plot. It is necessary to invest in a deep and slightly acid soil. It seems obvious that a plot with a potential yield of 60 to 65 quintals of wheat will not have the capacity to provide 25 quintals of flax seed. On wet soil, the enemy is definitely the mechanical frost which can threaten the base of the plant.

In addition, flaxseed can be weakened if it is not watered enough at the end of flowering in May. The land must have a good water reserve. Sandy soil should be avoided. Another essential point is good soil preparation. The crop is adapted for no-till soil provided that the soil depth is well structured. We advise a rapeseed-type sort of structure, slightly lumpy on the surface (avoid the hollow ground surface).

When can we sow flaxseed?

In order to obtain optimum growth at the start of winter, specific planting dates must be respected. The optimal period is between September 15 and October 20, depending on the part of France where you live. Flax seed is a weak plant that can easily be invaded by weeds. The end of autumn can be a good opportunity to apply a broadleaf herbicide. The goal is that the plant reaches between 5 and 10 cm height at the beginning of winter.

What are the enemies of flaxseed?

After flaxseed has emerged, it is advised to protect the plant from weeds, fungal disease from fungus Kabatiella lini or Kabattiellose and septoria. An interval of 6 years must be respected between two flax seed crops. A fungicide application in the autumn is essential. In the spring, care should be taken in order to protect flaxseed against Septoria leaf spot (Septoria Linicola) which form brown streaks on the stems.

Fungal disease from fungus Kabatiella lini, Kabattiellose, causes the flaxseed stem to get brown. This disease can affect flax seed from the 2 cm stage. It causes the collar to curve. Longitudinal cracks can form and "break" the stem. Cracks and browning are very detrimental to seed production. Yields can be reduced by half if the disease is manifested early.

If the plant is not very sensitive to pests, it is necessary to monitor flea beetles at the 5-cm stage, especially on low-growing, slow-growing flax seeds. However, their presence in the autumn is not common. The thrips are another enemy of flax seeds. Their late attacks can cause the flowers to abort and alter the yield

How can we optimize flaxseed nutrition at the beginning of winter?

Soil and foliar analyses can allow us to estimate flaxseed requirements in the medium and long term. When weather conditions are favorable for a foliar application, the use of a flaxseed-specific formulation is a relevant choice. Some products are therefore available, composed of key elements for the growth of flax seed: magnesium, boron, manganese and molybdenum. These solutions will enable flax seeds to better withstand the cold winter and stimulate their natural defenses against mechanical frost.

 If you want to stimulate your flax seeds before winter, do not wait to action. Contact our experts, they will help you find the most relevant solutions depending on your issue!


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