Linseed trialled at Darkan

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

Darkan farmers Ray and Tim Harrington have planted 8ha of linseed this season, aiming to supply a niche product and achieve agronomic benefits in their cropping program.

Tim Harrington, who farms with wife Victoria and his uncle Ray, said the family had joined forces with Aus Oils managing director Jon Slee, who had located a niche market for flaxseed oil, a health food product rich in omega 3.

Any lower grade product could be further processed and refined for industrial use.

"Jon Slee has the new cold-press facilities to crush the linseed and is looking to fill a new niche market," Mr Harrington said. "And in terms of the farm, we should benefit by introducing a new crop into the system, offering a break in weeds and diseases."

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Mr Harrington said the linseed would fit ideally into a continuous cropping rotation that included canola, barley and wheat, but had moved away from lupins.

Although not offering the nitrogen-fixing benefits of legumes, Mr Harrington said the linseed would help provide a break against the weeds and canola-based diseases typical to these crops.

Of plantings this year, some will be kept for seed and the remainder will be crushed at Aus Oils' Kojonup plant.

Mr Harrington said he and Mr Slee could source only old seed.

"The crop is struggling," he said.

"There is still a lot of bare ground and not much biomass. I am hoping this is a crop that just takes off in spring, but I suspect the older seed is the reason for its lack of vigour."

Mr Harrington said with fresh seed available next year from this season's plantings, he expected the 2016 season to be a better indication of how the crop performed in the area.

Next year, the Harringtons plan to allocate more land to linseed.

"Certainly if the lack of vigour we have seen this year is similar even with new seed, this would prove a problem if using as a break crop, as it does not compete well against weeds," he said. "Therefore it's important for several reasons that a crop planted with fresh seed is more vigorous."

Another challenge has been the drier than average season in his area. Including a welcome 20mm that fell last week, the Harringtons have received 230mm for the calendar year, most of which has fallen during the growing season. Normally by this point in the season they would have received about 70mm more rainfall.

The viability of linseed will also be determined by how well it goes through Aus Oils' cold presses, which until now have crushed only canola.

Mr Harrington said they planned to swath the linseed before harvesting, but would need to watch its maturity to determine exact timing.

"We are not planning to take the world by storm, it's very early days and there are so many unknowns," he said.

"But it's worth trying as it is a crop which could potentially achieve a premium as well as benefiting the existing cropping program."

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