Becoming a Grower
Growing Linseed for Functional Whole Foods
New Zealand Limited
"We care about people's health and well being. Our mission is to spread the word
about the benefits of functional foods."
Flax seed is the name commonly used in parts of Europe and North America for seed of the plantLinum usitatissimum. In New Zealand the more common name of the strains used for seed production is linseed, and the strains used for fibre or linen production are called linen flax - they are strains of the same species. We are not talking about our native Harakeke flax.
Functional Whole Foods New Zealand Ltd uses flax seed to expel fresh flax seed oil as a food for the human health market.
To convert to full organic certification takes three years from the initial registration with either AgriQuality or Bio-Gro. Where soluble fertilisers (e.g. superphosphate) or pesticides have not been used in recent years it may be possible to reduce the conversion period, but it will not be less than one year. Similarity to Other Crops. Linseed is not related to other commonly grown crops, such as cereals, brassicas and legumes, so is not a host to carry over diseases from these crops. Linseed also has the ability to improve soil tilth - these factors make it an ideal break crop in an organic cropping rotation. In many respects growing linseed is quite similar to growing barley, in that it tolerates a similarly wide range of climates, soil conditions and sowing times.
Linseed tolerates a wide range of climates and can be grown from the Waikato to Southland. It does not have a high water requirement (again similar to barley). In dry seasons it seems to tolerate droughts better than cereal crops, but it will respond to irrigation. Average yields on good dryland cropping soils are about 2 - 2.5 tonnes per hectare and about 3 - 3.5 tonnes per hectare on irrigated soils.
Linseed can be grown on both alluvial soils, such as the soils of the Canterbury plains and the Hawkes Bay and on heavier clay soils, such as the South Canterbury downlands.
Bird predation can be a problem on small areas and we have found that about 4 hectares is the smallest area that has been successful. We are very happy to contract large areas.
Place in your Rotation
Linseed does not have a particularly high fertility requirement, although naturally the best crops are straight out of pasture.
Linseed crop residues seem to contribute to maintaining good soil structure and growers have commented that a linseed crop is better for subsequent crops than a pea crop.
Linseed is very adaptable in its soil fertility requirements and can tolerate a wide range of soil pH's. Phosphate and sulphur levels need to be maintained, but high nitrogen status is not essential.
Sow after the soils warm up in spring, between your spring wheat and barley, so that the crop gets away quickly to compete with weeds. Dryland growers can plant as early as late August, but optimum time for irrigated crops is around late September.
In most situations linseed seems to compete well with weeds and they are not generally a problem.
The plant usually has only a single stem, but has a multi-branched head and the attractive, deep blue flowers appear over quite an extended period, as the side branches of the head continue to mature.
The seed is harvested late summer/early autumn with a combine harvester.
Functional Whole Foods New Zealand Ltd is happy to offer a firm contract to purchase any Conversion or Full Bio-Gro, AsureQuality or Demeter Certified Organic linseed crop. Please contact David Musgrave to get contract details, which will vary from time to time.