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General
  • Flax is a cool temperate annual herb with erect, slender stems, 80-120 cm tall, taller than linseed. Flax also known as common flax or linseed is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae.
  • Common flax or Linum usitatissimum was one of the first crops domesticated by man. Flax is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean region of Europe; the Swiss Lake Dweller People of the Stone Age apparently produced flax utilizing the fiber as well as the seed.
  • Flax, which is made into linen fabrics, is one of the oldest plant fibres known to be used for clothing.
  • Flax fibers are amongst the oldest fiber crops in the world. Flax fiber is extracted from the bast or skin of the stem of flax plant. Flax fiber is soft, lustrous and flexible. It is stronger than cotton fiber but less elastic.

Process

  • Threshing is the process of removing the seeds from the rest of the plant. The process is divided into two parts: the first part is intended for the farmer, or flax-grower, to bring the flax into a fit state for general or common purposes. The second part of the process is intended for the manufacturer to bring the flax into a state for the very finest purposes, such as lace, cambric, damask, and very fine linen. This second part is performed by the refining machine only.
  • Field retting is laying the flax out in a large field, and allowing dew to collect on it. This process normally takes a month or more, but is generally considered to provide the highest quality flax fibers, and produces the least pollution. Retting can also be done in a plastic trash can, or any type of water tight container of wood, concrete, earthenware or plastic. Metal containers will not work, as an acid is produced when retting, and it would corrode the metal. If the water temperature is kept at 80 °F, the retting process under these conditions takes 4 or 5 days, and if the water is any colder it takes longer.

Production

  • Flax was widely grown in Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries and a flourishing linen trade existed in the Bann and Lagan valleys. The farmers preferred to use less fertile soil to grow flax; obviously it doesn't need the use of heavy fertiliser.
  • Flax is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India and was probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent.It was extensively cultivated in ancient Egypt.
  • Flax is an alternative cash crop, especially in areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota where allocated acreages for other cash crops are limited or where other crops are not adapted. At one time the flax acreage was concentrated on the clay soils in eastern Wisconsin. In Minnesota, flax acreage is concentrated in the northwestern part, however flax has been grown successfully in nearly all counties.
  • The use of flax for the production of linen goes back 5000 years. In North America, flax was introduced by the Puritans. Currently most flax produced in the USA and Canada are seed flax types for the production of linseed oil or flaxseeds for human nutrition.

Application

  • Flax is still produced in the United States for its oil rich seed. Linseed  has been used as a drying agent for paints, varnishes, lacquer, and printing ink.
  • Flax is grown both for its seeds and for its fibers. Various parts of the plant have been used to make fabric, dye, paper, medicines, fishing nets and soap. It is also grown as an ornamental plant in gardens.
  • Flax is used to produce high quality textile fibers as well as sacking fabrics, dressing materials, tarpaulins, yarns and ropes. Due to their high strength, linen yarns and woven fabrics are suitable not only for bedding and table linen, but also for sewing threads, bookbinding fabrics and heavy woven fabrics, rucksack fabrics, working clothes, hospital linen and tropical clothing.

Market

  • Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of flaxseed with annual exports valued at CAN$150-180 million (M). As a result, market conditions in Canada have a significant impact on global flaxseed prices. Canadian supply increased by 22% due to large carry-in stocks and above-average production levels and exports are expected to increase by 21%. Flaxseed prices in Canada are forecast to average CAN$275 dollars per tonne (/t)
  • Chinese ingredients maker Biogin biochemicals said it has seen an approximately 30 percent growth in demand for its flax lignans from clients in the US and Europe and it is increasing its production capacity accordingly

Report

  • Flax is one of the oldest textiles, being tough and durable. Flax targeting the non-textile market is a high value crop as it is replacing non-renewable resources, for example plants from the Amazon Basin. The benefit of introducing a new line of flax for industrial purposes means a food crop is not being taken out of production.
  • Flax and hemp are the oldest industrial crops in Denmark. At its peak 18,000 hectares of land was used for the production of both linseed and textile flax. The flax area constituted approximately 3,500 hectares, while today the production has almost terminated due to poor economy.
  • Flax is experiencing significant interest for human, livestock, fiber and industrial oil uses and whereas flax faces strong competition for acres from other oilseeds as well as a range of agricultural crops.

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