Submitted to: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/1/2004
Publication Date: 6/1/2004
Citation: Foulk, J.A., Akin, D.E., Dodd, R.B., Frederick, J.R. Optimizing flax production in the south atlantic region of the United States. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 2004. 84:870-876.
Interpretive Summary: Worldwide the United States is the largest user of flax fiber, which is neither grown nor produced in the U.S. Therefore, production of flax for fiber could provide a new crop for U.S. farmers. Collaborative research between the scientists at USDA and Clemson University showed that flax fiber could be produced in the southern U.S. as a winter crop, with low chemical input and good straw yields, for possible double cropping with traditional summer crops for enhanced farmer income. Results are important in showing that flax fiber can be produced successfully to address ARS priorities for new crops, improved rural economies, and improved global competitiveness.
Technical Abstract: Ariane flax was grown from December, 1998 to May, 1999, in southeastern South Carolina, United States, and evaluated for production characteristics. Seed was applied at planting for a fiber crop with a high seeding rate of 101 kg/ha and planted using a drill in 19.1 cm rows. Rather than utilizing the traditional European harvest method of pulling, stems were harvested by drum mowing in preparation for dew- or enzymatic- retting. Flax was harvested early for optimal fiber and late for seed plus fiber crop in eight matched plots based on visual differences in plant height and appearance. Overall, the early plots averaged yields of 4,075 kg/ha dry matter, while an average of 5,075 kg/ha was produced in the late harvest plots. Nutrient levels, which were taken from plots after each harvest, varied among plots, and harvest date influenced yield and stem properties in a season of non-optimal moisture distribution. Use of pectinase-rich enzymes, as a means of estimating rettability in-vitro, indicated that the mid portion of the stem retted best for all plots. The pedicle, which holds the seed bolls and often is a problem in retting, averaged about 17% of the total plant and was less easily retted than the central stem portion. Except for the pedicle, generally stem rettability declined from top to bottom of the stems and overall tended to be less for mature plants. Stubble, which remained in the field after mowing at about 6.0 to 7.6 cm high, was calculated to be about 12% of the plant and estimated to have about 18 - 28% fiber. Therefore, mowing resulted in fiber loss of about 3% of the plant of 10% of potential total fiber yield of about 33%. Dry matter and fiber yield suggested that flax could be produced in this area using traditional farming methods