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A timeline with a brief history of Flax from 8000 BCE to present day. A more extensive history needs to be added.


    1. A Flax Timeline :a brief history of Flax from 8000 BCE to present day
    2. Flax in North Dakota
    3. North Dakota Agricultural History


A Flax Timeline :a brief history of Flax from 8000 BCE to present day

 Timeline needs to be moved at the time the site goes live.

Flax (Linum usitatissimum) production goes back to ancient history. Flax remnants were found in Stone Age dwellings in Switzerland, and ancient Egyptians made fine linens from flax fiber. Flax production moved west across the northern United States and Canada during the 1800s. As settlers moved west, flax was one of the crops produced. North Dakota farmers have grown flax since sod first was broken.

Producers grow two types of flax: seed flax for the oil in its seed and fiber flax for the fiber in its stem. Today producers in the upper Midwest and the Prairie Provinces of Canada grow seed flax. North Dakota is the leading producer of flax for oil and food use in the United States. Flax seed is crushed to produce linseed oil and linseed meal. Linseed oil has many industrial uses; linseed meal is used for livestock feed. The fiber in seed flax stems is used to make fine paper and as tow or padding in upholstered furniture. Cigarette paper is a major flax paper product.

Human consumption of flax seed is increasing rapidly for its high dietary fiber, its omega-3 oils and anti-carcinogenic lignans. Flax seed oil is used as a vegetable oil by some consumers and processors say its use is doubling annually. Whole, (preferably) ground flax seed is consumed mostly in bakery products. Hens fed flax seed produce "omega eggs," which are sold in the U.S. and Canada for their high omega-3 oil content. Much flax seed meal also is fed to pets and other animals. Research is being conducted to determine the health benefits of human consumption of flax seed products.

Fiber flax is grown in Europe and Asia. Its fiber is used to make fine linen cloth. Fiber flax varieties are very tall with few branches and low seed production. Seed flax is short, multiple branched and selected for high seed production.

Information resources

A list of resources that provide information on the history and uses of flax.


Flax in North Dakota

USDA records of flax production in North Dakota go back to 1889, although the crop had been grown in the state prior to that date.  Beginning with pioneer days North Dakota has produced flax, as it was traditionally sown as the first year crop after "sod-busting."  The state has been leader in flax production among all the states since the 1890's; currently well over 90% of flax grown in the U.S. is grown in North Dakota.  North Dakota Agricultural College (now North Dakota State University) became active in researching flax in the 1890's and this research into flax diseases, flax varieties, production and uses continues today.

Early farmers in North Dakota surmised that flax was very harmful to the land since if planted in successive years the soil failed to continue to produce the crop. Farmers originally thought this was due to flax "tiring" the the soil within a few years of cultivation.  However, research begun in the early 1890's by Professor H.L. Bolley determined that disease, especially Flax Wilt, was the problem and that  disease was carried over in the soil.   Professor Bolley established a flax wilt research plot at Fargo in 1894 called Plot 30;  flax was planted continuously on this 1/8 acre plot of ground until most plants died of wilt except for a small percentage of wilt resistant plants.  By developing these resistant plants, Bolley was able to release the first wilt resistant seed flax in 1908.  Plot 30 is still used for researching flax disease and disease resistant plants, and has been in continuous flax production since it was established. 

For more information about the history flax research in the state, take a look at these documents:

For current information, look at recent variety trial results or other flax publications produced by NDSU.


North Dakota Agricultural History

North Dakota and agriculture: agriculture and North Dakota—words that are almost synonymous to many people, including its own residents.  It is the land itself that has been a major factor in the development of the state and its culture.  The farmers who turned the first sod were looking to replicate the farms of eastern states or Europe, but the land forced them to adjust.  And adjust they have, adopting farming methods uniquely suited to the northern Great Plains.  It is through the eyes of the publications documenting this fundamental change in dealing with the land on its terms that this change can be understood and appreciated.

More on North Dakota Agricultural History


        • Climate, Soil, Geography
        • Native Animal Life
        • Early History
        • Fur Trade
        • Early Settlers
        • Transportation and Railroads
        • Milling and Milling Centers
        • Grain Trade and Grain Trading
        • Bonanza Farms
        • Livestock
        • Luring Settlers
        • Homesteaders' Life
        • Farmers' Political Movements
        • Education, Research, and Extension
        • Dust Bowl and Depression
        • Evolution of Agriculture in the State from Roots Until Now
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