Animal feed market driving linseed area increase

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THE area of linseed grown in the UK is set to rise this season as a result of strong demand for the crop’s use in livestock rations.

While the total area for linseed for 2012 is expected to be around the 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) mark, most of which will be spring planted, the winter-sown area is likely to almost double in size from 4,500ha (11,000 acres) to 8,000ha (20,000 acres).

That is according to Nigel Bazeley of Hampshire-based Premium Crops, who says there is a strong demand from end users for UK- produced linseed.

Modern varieties offering winter hardiness are providing growers with a much-needed alternative winter break crop to address the agronomic issues of tightening wheat/oilseed rape rotations, he says

With typical premiums being paid for linseed at 15 per cent above the OSR price, gross margins for the crop can be better than for other winter break crops.

Disease fears

“OSR is the number two winter crop in the country and will remain so, but there is only so much you can grow in the rotation,” says Mr Bazeley. “We are picking up increasing concerns about diseases such as verticillium and club root, caused by tightening rotations.

“Growers need other break crop options which offer good gross margins and agronomic packages. There is significant potential for the more consistent yielding winter linseed crop to exceed the spring crop area of 40,000ha.”

He says prices for other break crops have not kept pace with cereal and oilseed prices, while weed control problems posed by a reduction in available herbicides has seen their acreages slipping back.

Winter linseed is planted at a similar time to winter OSR and a range of pre- and post-emergence herbicides can be used to control problem weeds found in OSR rotations such as charlock, runch and cranesbill.

It provides a good entry for wheat, says Mr Bazeley, with harvest usually starting around July 10 and completed in the first week of August. “It doesn’t matter if harvest clashes with OSR as linseed can wait until the rape is finished, without shedding.”

According to a five-year trials programme run by French-based oilseeds research centre CETIOM, wheat yields better after linseed than following OSR.

Worcestershire grower Richard Hawker says the crop has exceeded yield expectations this harvest.

The 23ha (57-acre) crop of Oleane yielded 3.3t/ha, which, considering the cold winter and dry spring, was a very good result, he says. “We budgeted for 2.5-3t/ha but at 3.3t/ha its gross margin was better than OSR for us.”

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