Industry-led Research and Development Stream – Flax Agronomy Research
Theme of research “Improving the Competitiveness of Flax through Agronomic, Breeding & Biotechnology Research”
Duration of research activity: 2014 to 2018
Six research activities are being conducted as a result of our AIP funding program. These activities are:
- Disease Management. Pasmo is the most prevalent flax disease in Canada. Pasmo increases the prevalence of lodging thereby reducing yield and quality of seed. This project will study virulence of pasmo and screen to identify genetic resistance for breeders.
- Seed Quality. The objective of this study is to determine whether there is a yield loss from the use of farm saved seed versus pedigreed seed. Seed size and seeding rate will be evaluated for seedling vigour and performance of flax varieties.
- Mitigating Soil Moisture Extremes. In the prairies, claims under crop insurance are most frequent for excess moisture (28% of claims) and drought (22% of claims). This study will evaluate adaptability of flax varieties to soil moisture extremes and to develop tillage options and strategies to mitigate and manage adverse soil moisture conditions.
- Abiotic Stress – Transcription Factors. This research work will identify transcription factors associated with heat and drought stress. Transcription factors are proteins that regulate expression of large number of genes (behave as master genes). Gene markers will be developed so that breeders can select for these factors in order to improve stress tolerance in future flax varieties.
- Optimizing Integrated Weed Management in Flax. Weed management is a major factor involved with yield and yield stability. Effective weed management should slow the spread of herbicide tolerant weeds. The objective of this study is to determine how effective combinations of agronomic practices impact weed growth and flax yield.
- Genetic Improvement for Drought. The purpose of this research project is to identify genes for drought tolerance. Gene markers will be identified that will help breeders accumulate drought tolerant genes into new flax varieties.
Developing Food Markets for a Canadian Health Claim for Flax
Flax (Linum usitatissimum) is an important oilseed crop for Canadian producers and processors. Although currently a small market, the food ingredient area is growing in both value and importance.
Two major factors lay the foundation for future growth throughout the flaxseed value chain and are opportunities: 1) the strong growing demand for healthy food; and 2) a new Health Canada approved claim linking flaxseed products to a reduction of blood cholesterol approved in August 2013. The acceptance of this claim will be another science-based tool for the promotion of flax into this significant marketplace – both domestically and internationally.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada under its Agri-Marketing program has awarded the Flax Council funding to: 1) Raise awareness about the existence of the health claim; 2) Provide information to food manufacturers on how to formulate foods that are eligible to carry the health claim; and 3) Educate health and wellness professionals about flax’s role in a healthy lifestyle and the importance of the claim.
Canada is a leading world supplier of flaxseed for food markets. There is great potential for the sector to expand and take advantage of the opportunities that a health claim offers. The activities being conducted under AMP will result in a greater market pull for flaxseed containing foods from consumers and hence a greater number of such foods fortified and marketed domestically. This will lead to a demand for greater acreage of flax, which will benefit flax producers.
The overall outcome of the activities will be the growth of the Canadian flaxseed food markets both domestically and internationally and higher value markets for flax producers in the food sector. The immediate focus will be Canada, the U.S., China, Philippines and India which represent human consumption markets that currently are most interested in flax for use in health and nutrition. This claim will assist processors and flax suppliers in their promotion and other efforts to increase their market share in both current and emerging markets.
Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development
Growing Actions Program
Improving Production for New and Growing Markets
Flax is an important crop for Manitoba. It has high value as a rotation crop providing a break for disease, insect and weed populations. It is a lower input cost crop and is a competitive alternative oilseed crop on a net return basis. Manitoba is home to many small to medium sized food ingredient processing companies and an emerging bio-fibre and bio-industrial sector that relies on a consistent supply of product for their businesses.
Canadian (and Manitoba) flax production and the market have changed significantly since the discovery of seed from the genetically modified flax variety Triffid in the EU in 2009. Imports of Canadian flax into the EU market have been drastically reduced. In addition, flax has not kept pace with yield improvements of most major crops in western Canada. Commercial flax yields have only increased 0.5% per year for the last 30 years.
To address reductions in yield and lost acreage, as well as the loss of the EU as a major export market for Canadian flax, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD) under its Growing Actions program has approved funding for the FCC to focus activities on two important goals with outcomes as follows:
- Flax Production: Improving Production for the Market – It is critical to identify the factors that have caused Manitoba producers to dramatically reduce their flax production, identify current production tools available that can lead to a resurgence of flax acreage, communicate those best management practices (BMP’s) to new and existing growers, and identify and fill the gaps that exist in current agronomic research. The activities approved will identify best management practices that are critical to improve the yield and yield stability of flax in Manitoba (farmer survey), demonstrate these BMP’s to farmers (field demo program) and communicate and report to growers on these BMP’s as a process of continuous improvement.
- Flax Market: Support Current Markets and Develop (and grow) New Markets- In order for Canada’s flax market to return to levels seen before Triffid was detected, Canada needs to support current domestic markets and develop (and grow) other markets such as the U.S. and China, both of which currently buy 39% of Canada’s flax supply. Two major factors lay the foundation for future growth throughout the flaxseed value chain and are opportunities that this application addresses: 1) the strong growing demand for healthy food; and 2) a new Health Canada approved claim linking flaxseed products to a reduction of blood cholesterol. The industry must be able to demonstrate that tasty food products can be developed containing the health claim amount of flaxseed which is 13 g. With the support of MAFRD, the Flax Council has commissioned the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie to create such products. An outcome of this project is to assist Manitoba suppliers in educating the larger multi-national food and ingredient companies as to the overall value proposition of flax (both health and functionality) as well as the health claim.
The original vision of the NAFGEN included: a dramatic and significant increase in the flax acreage of Canada by 2015 and that flax would be grown for both seed and fibre in two natural fibre clusters: Western Canada, involving the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, and Eastern Canada, involving Ontario and Quebec.
- Container shipments
- Bulk shipments
- Container shipments
2014/2015 Flax Sample Testing Program
As of September 1, 2010, any flax entering the commercial grain handling system was subjected to rigorous testing for the presence of CDC Triffid, a genetically modified flax. Since then the flax industry has made considerable progress in the efforts to clear CDC Triffid from the grain supply.
Reconstituted seed of several key products was launched in 2014 as one of the final stages in this process. For the benefit of the overall flax industry for the future, any flax producers that did not purchase certified seed or reconstituted seed in 2014 are encouraged to do so for 2015. Reconstituted seed supplies are expected to be good for 2015. Certified seed is the most reliable and highest quality source of planting seed for flax growers. Using certified seed this spring will be more important than ever because of the need to “start from zero” with our planting seed in order to restore access to markets and confidence in the Canadian flax supply. To find Certified flax seed, go to:
As long as farm saved seed from previous generations of stock seed are used the potential for Triffid to show up in grain shipments is possible.
Producers are encouraged to complete testing of harvested flax seed and planting seed for the presence of Triffid. A description of sampling procedures is below.
Procedures for testing Farm Saved Seed:
- To ensure the highest confidence in the testing procedures, a sample of seed must be drawn across the entire lot of seed. This may be done a number of ways; however, the best and most preferred method is to sample directly from a clean seed stream. This includes but is not limited to sampling as the clean seed is:
- coming off the cleaners;
- being loaded into a truck;
- being transferred from the truck into a seed bin on farm.
- A minimum 4 subsamples per 1 metric tonne (1 sample per 10 bushels) must be drawn and mixed thoroughly. Example: a 5 mt lot will require 20 subsamples.
- A lot may not be any larger than 20 mt.
- A representative 2 kg sample is to be submitted to a lab on the Flax Council’s list of approved testing labs (link to labs) for Triffid testing (4 x 60g).
ONLY SEED TESTING NEGATIVE WILL BE ACCEPTABLE FOR PLANTING
- At harvest or delivery of the 2014 and 2015 crop, the grower will be asked to provide a certificate of laboratory analysis that verifies the planting seed tested negative.
SAMPLE SUBMISSION TO APPROVED LABORATORIES
OF FLAX SAMPLES FOR TRIFFID TESTING
Frequently Asked Question
Q: How many bushels can be sampled for one 2 kg sample for submission to an approved laboratory?
A: It is recommended that one sample can cover up to 5,000 bushels if the crop was seeded from the same seed source and the entire field has the same recent cropping history. As has been previously stated, the quality of the sample is reliant upon sound sampling techniques.
For further information, please contact Don Kerr, President, Flax Council of Canada, by phone at 204-982-2115 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note that some flax buyers will only accept test results from certain labs (link to labs).
The following companies will only accept results from labs as listed below. This list may be modified. Please check for updates.
- Eurofins GeneScan, Inc.
- Quantum Biosciences Inc.
Approved Labs and Test Submission Forms
2014/2015 Flax Sample Testing Program
Disclaimer: The Flax Council of Canada is not responsible for the quality or accuracy of any results that may be provided by an individual laboratory on this list.
In alphabetical order:
20/20 Seed Labs Inc.
507 – 11th Avenue
Nisku, AB T9E 7N5
Ph: 780-955-3435 or 877-420-2099
507 Highland Drive
River Falls, WI 54022
Ph: 715-426-0246 x 118
BioVision Seed Labs
#310, 280 Portage Close
Sherwood Park, AB T8H 2R6
Discovery Seed Labs Ltd.
Attention: Bruce Carriere or Sandy Junek
450 Melville Street
Saskatoon, SK S7J 4M2
DNA LandMarks Inc.
84 Richelieu Street
St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC J3B 6X3
Eurofins GeneScan Inc.
2315 N. Causeway Boulevard
Metairie, LA 70001
Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC)
125 – 15 Innovation Boulevard
Saskatoon, SK S7N 2X8
Ph: 306-933-5400 or 877-772-7227
OMIC USA Inc.
3344 N.W. Industrial Street
Portland, OR 97210-1619
Ph: 503-223-1497 x 20
Quantum Biosciences Inc.
101 – 110 Research Drive
Saskatoon, SK S7N 3R3
Brookings, SD 57006