The flax grown in Western Europe is known for being the best in the world. This level of excellence is the result of a combination of three factors benefits: the availability of suitable land, favorable climatic conditions and knowledge of experts linicoltori quality-conscious.
In the field of agricultural production, the specialists leave nothing to chance: land preparation, selection of varieties, planting and growing of flax, control culture, collection for extirpation and maceration designed to encourage the extraction of the fibers. These are all steps that require the same rigor and the same treatment.
With a strong content of tradition but open to advances in scientific and industrial research, this culture is practiced by always respecting the environment.
The Linum usitatissimum
Flax, Linum usitatissimum defined in botany, is a plant of the family of dicotyledonous linacee.
The plant is composed of a single stem that can reach approximately one meter tall with a diameter ranging from 1 to 3 millimeters on which grow from 80 to 100 sessile leaves alternate.
The flower, usually blue is said "to 5". It is in fact a capsule comprising 5 lobes, each of which contains 2 seeds. The seeds, smooth, flat and usually reddish-brown color, they are light and small and slightly curved at the tip.
Flax is a plant characterized by rapid growth; its growing period is about 100 days. It is cultivated as a textile plant because its stem produces the fibers and its seeds, a quality oil that is widely used.
Among all the textile plants, the cultivation of flax is one that respects the environment more.
The production of flax in western Europe
In Europe it is cultivated since ancient flax, a production that has always been recognized as the best in the world. The cultivation of flax draws fact benefit both from more favorable climatic conditions - temperate humid climate - both from the lands best suited They consist of sandy clay soils.
The best soils are currently in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, but also in Germany, Austria, Finland. They represent a total area of cultivation of about 75,000 hectares.
Although the cultivation of flax requires few active substances, however, requires a profile of land favorable for germination, a rigorous selection of varieties and a regular distribution of the seeds. The preparation and the control culture are decisive for the success of the production.
Flax seeds are small and have limited nutritional reserves. This peculiarity obliged to follow the rules of sowing different from those used for cereals: the linicoltore must effectively adapt their behavior so as to create the most favorable conditions for the germination of seeds and adjust to ensure the homogeneity of the crop stage seeding. The application of these two precepts is a guarantee of the quality and profitability of the cultivation of flax.
The preparation of the earth must favor one part regular and quick germination of the seeds and, secondly, the good development of the root system of the plants.
Sowing takes place between mid-March and mid-April. The linicoltore must check that the grains are distributed as evenly as possible on the ground to obtain a homogeneous plantation.
The optimum density is 1800 plants per square meter in such a way as to ensure the best possible relationship between crop yield, resistance to lodging (bending towards the ground) of the plant and the quality of fineness and strength of the fiber.
The growth of the flax is fast. From seed germination to maturity desired passes little more than a hundred days during which the stem reaches its maximum height.
There are about twenty selected varieties of flax grown for the production of textile fibers in Western Europe. The choice of the variety of flax it is a function of the conditions of the soil, the nature of the climate, the wind resistance of the stem of the plant, of the criterion of productivity and the quality sought for the final product. The choice of the variety to be sown is a key factor in the context of the culture of flax.
Flax growing demands very limited use of fertilizers and pesticides.
The plant has recently attacked by parasites and predators. His only enemies are serious weeds that does not tolerate much.
For collection processes are required, specific techniques and materials. It must ensure, in particular, the phases of the plants and grubbing of maceration to the ground which causes the natural decomposition of the binders that hold the fibers.
The collection typically begins five weeks after flowering means when the flax has reached maturity desired detectable by staining of the stems and the degree of defoliation of plants.
The flax is extirpated to preserve the entire length of the fibers contained in the stem. This technique requires the use of special agricultural machinery. Upon grubbing machines form windrows (corridors) on which are laid parallel rows of stalks.
Once extirpated, flax is left lying on the ground in a manner that, with the first rains, it triggers the process of maceration. This promotes the degradation of the stems through the enzymatic action of microorganisms (fungi and bacteria) occur naturally in the soil. The decomposition activated by moisture, wind and the mild temperatures, eliminate the ligands of the stems allowing to separate the fiber bundles by the coating substances thus facilitating the subsequent extraction.
For maceration on the ground, the linicoltore does not resort to any treatment because the process is entirely natural. This is a common technique that depends on climatic conditions and therefore may not be applicable to all regions of Western Europe. Researchers and industrialists are researching innovative enzymatic processes of maceration.
An operation that depends on the climate
Depending on weather conditions, the length of maceration can vary from two weeks to three months.
The overthrow of the stems
The overthrow of the straw on the ground is an operation that takes place midway through the maceration and is critical to occur a good soaking to the ground. Is practiced to promote the maceration homogeneous on all sides of the stems allowing drying.
The mixing is performed after the flax is withered, for the production of seed. During this operation, the capsules containing seeds for sowing the next season are removed and jokes.
Once the flax is macerated and it has reached a moisture content less than 15%, is collected mechanically and pressed into large round bales that, left field, are stored until the moment of extraction of the fibers. Collected in these conditions, the flax is able to maintain very long without being degraded.