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Five reasons to grow flax

Venkata Vakulabharanam, Saskatchewan Agric-ulture’s oilseed specialist, is optimistc about flax. At the Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission’s “Flax Day 2013,” Vakulabharanam gave farmers five reasons grow flax.

1. Per acre profit. According to Vakulabharanam, flax provides “equal or better profitability” when compared with other crops.

2. Better yields next year. Research has shown that canola yields better when grown on flax stubble.

3. Hail insurance. Flax plants are very tolerant to hail, as compared with other crops. When flax plants are damaged by hail, they often produce lateral branches. They can sometimes produce better yields than if the hail had not hit.

4. Flax can break the disease cycle. Vakulabharanam says, “I think flax makes perfect sense to be in the crop rotation.”

5. New and better chemicals make flax a more practical option than it once was.

Shane Stokke is a Watrous-area farmer, and a SaskFlax director. Like Vakulabharanam, Stokke is optimistic about flax. “Flax is the highest net profit crop that I can grow,” he said.

As well, with a lower up-front cash outlay required to grow flax, Stokke told farmers, “it’s lower risk than other crops.”

Stokke presented an estimated flax budget, and explained that on his farm, he’s projecting a net income from flax (before fixed costs) of $280.04 per acre (based on a 28 bushel crop, at $14.50 per bushel). In comparison, Stokke’s estimated net income (before fixed costs) for canola is $237.48 per acre, mainly due to the higher variable costs of growing canola.

Stokke shared four tips for higher flax yields.

1. Seed early.

2. Seed shallow.

3. Keep seed-placed fertilizer down (to avoid fertilizer burn).

4. Have clean fields.

Stokke reminded farmers, “flax doesn’t compete well.” But, he says, “Authority works well.”

He is also convinced that fungicide is “a must” for good flax yields. “It’s one of the few inputs that makes you feel good when you leave a check strip,” he said. “But you wish you’d never left that check strip.”

But farmers still have issues with flax straw. Stokke says, “straw is more needed than it was 10 years ago.” More companies buying straw. If you can’t find a buyer for your straw, chopping and spreading it is the next best alternative. †

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