Flax grown in South Dakota less than demand
Today only about 7,000 acres in South Dakota are planted to flax seed. This is a large change from the mid-1980s when South Dakota produced close to 100,000 acres of flax and was one of the largest producers in the U.S., said Ruth Beck, SDSU Extension agronomy field specialist.
The reduction in flax seed production in South Dakota is not because of less demand as a human food ingredient. Flax seed demand has increased in recent years because of consumer popularity for the seed or meal; flax seed has high dietary fiber and high omega-3 oil content.
Flax produced in South Dakota is typically used for diverse products of feed, food or oil.
There are varieties with yellow seed and others with brown seed. "Some markets discriminate on seed color while others don't," Beck said. "Flax works well in a crop rotation with small grains and corn."
South Dakota flax is also often a popular component of cover crop mixes because it attracts pollinators and has strong arbuscular mycorrhizal associations.
Research has shown that meal made from flax that has had the oil removed by solvent extraction or cold-pressing makes excellent livestock feed.
For optimum yield and disease control, flax should be in a three-year or more rotation. Beck said producers should select a variety that is adapted to their location. SDSU has flax variety performance results from 2012 and previous years available on iGrow.org.
Moisture requirements for flax are lower than many other crops including wheat, corn and sunflowers. The root system on flax is primarily located in the top 2 to 3 foot of the soil. Consequently, Beck said flax does better in medium and heavy textured soils that hold more water in the surface layers.
"Flax is highly mycorrhizal meaning it can extract maximum amounts of water from the zones where its roots grow if it is in a diverse no-till rotation favoring VAM (vesicular arbuscular mycorrhiza)," she said. "This ability to dry the surface soil sometimes presents more of a challenge in establishing a winter wheat stand in the fall as compared to where peas are grown. The excellent snow-catching ability of flax stubble provides a distinct advantage in recharging soil water prior to spring."
Flax should be seeded at ¾ inch to 1 ¼ inches deep.
"Be sure to plant only high quality seed with good germination. Certified seed is recommended to assure varietal purity, seed viability, and freedom from pathogens and weed seed," she said.
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