Flax plant belongs to the kingdom of plants to the species of Linum Usitatissimum. Flax plant is used for making different types of materials and also consumed as food in populations in some countries. Good and costly fibers are obtained from the flax plant which are used to make cloths. Oil is extracted from the flax plant which has many uses. Flax plant completes its life cycle in one year. When the plant starts growing it develops blue flowers and thin stems. Flax plant is being cultivated since the last thirty millenniums. Georgia, Syria, Egypt, China, India, European countries and few African countries were among the first cultivators and users of the flax plant.
Soil requirements and extraction of fibers
Loam soils which are fertile and contains nutrients are best to grow flax. Alluvial soil is also good to grow flax plant. Fertilizers may be added to the soil depending on the requirement of the crop. Some pests and insects can harm the flax crop so limited use of pesticides is done to prevent any pest from harming the crop. Canada, China and Russia are among the top flax producing countries in the world. Flax plant becomes ready for harvest within three to four months after seeds are sown. When the plant starts turning yellow from green, it is best to start harvesting the flax plant to obtain fiber. The harvest should be complete before the plant turns brown from yellow for optimum results. After flax plants are picked during harvest, they are threshed in order to separate seeds from the plant. The flax fiber is present under the stem of the plant. The stem of the flax plant is broken in order to extract the fiber. The fiber obtained from the flax plants is one of the finest quality fiber obtained like linen, lace and cambric fibers. In order to prepare flax fibers for spinning, the harvested plant stalks are put through the process of retting which involves removal of stem and other parts of the stalk. To extract flax fibers through retting, harvested stalks are put in water so that the stem dissolves away slowly in water leaving behind flax fibers. The flax fibers are then dressed after retting. Straw and other undesirable substances are also removed during the process of retting to obtain quality flax fibers. Genetically engineered and modified cultivars of flax plants are regularly researched and cultivated to enhance the yield and quality of the crop. Fusarium wilt and rust are major diseases which effect the yield of the flax crop. However genetically engineered cultivars have been developed and employed to keep diseases under control. Researchers are looking to manage mildew disease employing the same method. Seedling blight and root rot are diseases that also reduce the yield of flax crop. Planting disease free and good seeds are good measures to reduce the chances of these diseases. Fungicides and crop rotation are practiced to prevent and reduce the effects of disease and increase crop yield.
Uses of Flax plant
Animal shelters are made using flax plants. Flax plant is used to make bio fuel. One hundred grams of flax plant releases around five hundred kilo calories of energy. Flax contains vitamins, minerals and a lot of dietary fiber good for health in humans. Consuming flax is good for heart as it reduces blood cholesterol. Seeds and oil obtained from the flax plants are not injurious to human health but over consumption of flax is not recommended. Flax fiber is soft and has a glossy texture. Flax fibers have good tensile strength. Flax fibers are used in making ropes, equipment, papers and tea bags. A very important end product made from flax fibers is linen cloth which is an extremely fine and expensive cloth. In ancient times linen cloths were valuable and worn by priests. Today many well known brands make valuable cloths using flax fibers. Flax seeds are used to extract oil which has drying properties. It is also mixed with paints to make them more dilute and glossy. The oil obtained from flax plant is used to finish wooden products and furniture. One of the by products of flax cultivation is straw which is sold to feed domesticated animals and this provides additions income to flax cultivators. Flax straw is also used as a fuel by farmers. Flax fiber is used in insulating materials. Flax fibers insulating materials have certain advantages over fiber glass insulating materials and hence the flax fiber insulating materials are becoming popular. Flax fiber is also used to make geo textiles which prevents land degradation. Flax fibers are bio degradable and using them is environment friendly. Flax fibers are light, less abrasive and easier to manufacture and so flax fibers are used in plastic composites like pipes, dash boards and other materials.