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Prairie Sapphire — jewel of a flax

From the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Morden, Manitoba flax breeding program comes a new high yielding, high-oil content flax variety, expected to have an excellent fit in crop rotations anywhere flax is grown across Western Canada.

Prairie Sapphire

Prairie Sapphire, developed by plant breeder Scott Duguid, appears to be a significant improvement over existing flax varieties, says Greg Stamp, a southern Alberta grower and seed producer.

“We’ve been growing flax for years and we were surprised just to see what kind of yields we were getting,” says Stamp who is part of the family that run Stamp’s Select Seeds (www.stampseeds.com) at Enchant, north of Lethbridge.

“Typically, we budget flax for a 40 bushel yield, but with Prairie Sapphire on one field, which had been manured previously, it yielded 65 bushels per acre and on another field it yielded 55 bushels per acre with very little lodging. Even though it was generally a good year for flax, it was hard to believe. We double checked the yield monitors too.”

Stamp, who will be marketing the seed this spring to commercial producers as well as other seed growers, is one of the distributors handling Prairie Sapphire on behalf of the Winnipeg-based ASC (Alliance Seed Corporation).

The Stamps follow a proper crop rotation and good fertility program with all crops. They have also been moving toward higher seeding rates, especially with varieties grown under irrigation. Prairie Sapphire was seeded at about 60 pounds per acre, on irrigated fields in 2011.

“We have both irrigated and dryland acres and have been increasing seeding rates on all crops,” says Stamp. “Especially for crops grown under irrigation. We have the water, so we aim to optimize yields.”

The Stamps have grown two leading flax varieties — Hanley and CDC Sorrel — for several years. Hanley was developed and registered by AAFC at Morden, MB in 2001 and CDC Sorrel, from the University of Saskatchewan, was registered in 2006.

Variety features

Along with high yield, other features of Prairie Sapphire include improved disease resistance — it is immune to Rust (race 731) and is moderately resistant to wilt. The variety has improved lodging resistance, and has a large, consistent chocolate-coloured seed. The seed has higher protein and higher oil content than check varieties.

For in-crop weed control, Stamp says there are a number of options depending on the weed spectrum. He has used Flaxmax, which is a combination broadleaf and grassy weed herbicide, but other years finds Buctril M or Lontrel in combination with a Group 1 herbicide effective on weeds. Last year he found Equinox — a newer (Group 1) grassy herbicide from BASF — was effective.

Stamp usually straight cuts flax later in the season. Sometimes it’s the last crop combined in November. Other farmers prefer to swath flax, but the Stamps like to straight cut because of the risk of swaths being blown around by the wind in their part of the country.

While flax residue can be a challenge to manage, especially for seeding the following year, Stamp says they have some years baled the residue. They always seems to be able to market flax straw. But the Stamps have also had good results getting good even distribution of residue with the chopper/spreader on their John Deere combine.

“This Prairie Sapphire appears to be a good variety from both an agronomic and a yield standpoint,” says Stamp. “While 2011 was a good year for flax, I think even in a dryer year it might out-perform canola in some areas.” †

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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