This field lab involves growers who are part of an emerging network aiming to re-establish a regenerative textile (particularly linen) supply chain in the UK, with a particular focus in Scotland.

The trial’s main objectives are to ascertain how well flax grows in a range of soil types, measured by crop establishment and yield; and to compare the performance of 3 varieties in a range of soil types.

The secondary objectives are to explore factors which may influence the retting process (e.g. time retted, number of turnings, weather); and to compare the fibre quality of 3 varieties.


  • 80% of the world’s flax crop is grown in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands
  • There is little contemporary research available on growing modern varieties in UK soil types and climates.
  • This trial is the first small step in exploring a resurgence in flax production and processing in Scotland.
  • If successful, it is hoped that it will lead to further trials on a larger scale, with a longer-term aim is of making a case for industry investment in specialist harvest and processing equipment. 


Trial design

There will be three main trial sites.  Each site will grow 3 replicates of each variety (Avian, Delta, Tango) on 10sqm plots, totalling 9 plots per site. Plots will be randomised in three reps. Seed will be sown in rows 125mm apart at a rate of ~10g/sqm.

None of these varieties are commercially available in the UK yet.

Other community growers will also be encouraged to take part in a wider, support trial. 

The field lab will follow the production process from seed to harvested crop; measuring establishment & yield and comparing these across varieties and sites.

The seeds for the trial are being provided by Elsoms Seeds.



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Innovative Farmers was established in 2012 by the Soil Association with the aim of bringing scientific rigour to on-farm trials co-designed by farmers and researchers. With a focus on sustainability and resilience, groups come together on discrete topics and on-farm trials addressing the topics that matter to them.

The Farming and Land Use Team at the Soil Association have a specialist knowledge of all UK agricultural sectors as well as in depth understanding of organic and agroecological food production systems. Our goal is to support organic and non-organic farmers alike to transition towards more sustainable practices.

The James Hutton Institute combines strengths in crops, soils and land use and environmental research, and makes a major contribution to the understanding of key global issues, such as food, energy and environmental security, and developing and promoting effective technological and management solutions to these.

Linseed & flax (Linum usitatissimum) have been important crops for oil and for fibre.