After three decades of fairly stagnant yields in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, a renewed focus on agronomic practices with flax could unlock higher yields, says a former flax breeder who now works as a research consultant for the Flax Council of Canada.
“I think that flax has been undermanaged to some degree, even with fertility,” says Paul Dribnenki in the video below, noting the largest yield increases have been in Alberta, possibly because growers have applied management practices for canola to flax. “It’s known the fertility required for flax is very similar to what’s required for canola. We have to increase the inputs for flax if we really want to have significant increases in yield.”
A 30 percent increase in average yield across the prairies over the next six years is entirely possible, he suggests.
“We’re going to do that mainly by identification and promotion of best management practices, and by looking for other tools that might be used,” says Dribnenki, pointing to research from Manitoba Agriculture showing yields can be increased by about 30 percent by “just utilizing half a dozen BMPs.”
These recommended management practices need to be updated, as he notes the council’s flax grower guide was last published in 2002: “A lot of things have changed since then. So I’ve identified chapter leads across the prairies, and it’s up to them to go to their colleagues to update each chapter so we have the best information possible in the grower guide.”
The federal government announced $3 million in funding for flax research through the Flax Council of Canada in October 2014.
Dribnenki explains the renewed focus on flax agronomics, the similarities between canola and flax, and more in this interview filmed at the 2015 CropConnect Conference in Winnipeg: