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Insulation, textiles, food, wood impregnation and paint. Flax is a crop with many uses that is suitable for cultivation in the Nordic Region. But today, the cultivation in the Nordic countries is limited, especially for fiber production. Hopefully NordGen’s flax projects can increase interest in the useful crop.

In 2023, NordGen cultivated 30 different flax varieties as part of a collaborative project that included the project partners Skånelin, Science Park Borås and the project 1 KVM LIN. 27 of these seed samples are old varieties or landraces from the Nordic seed collection. Another three varieties were collected from the association Skånelin. The aim of the project was to collect data on the morphological traits, i.e. the study of physical form and external structure of plants, and to determine which of the varieties are suitable for oil production or cultivation for fiber production.

“Flax is a pleasant and easy crop to work with that is suitable for cultivation in the Nordic region, from sowing to harvest it takes three to four months. But today there is basically no commercial flax cultivation for fiber production in the Nordic countries. We would like to highlight that there are several varieties in NordGen’s collection that are suitable for fiber production,” says Mohammad El-Khalifeh, NordGen’s Senior Scientist on forages and industrial crops.

More than 400 different seed samples of flax

Last year’s test cultivation showed that 15 varieties most likely are suitable for fiber production. This year, these varieties are grown again on a larger scale, 10 m2 per variety. After harvesting, the project partner Skånelin will process the harvested flax and assess the plants’ characteristics to determine which varieties are best for use in fiber production.

”Flax may have a great future in the Nordic Region since we have a perfect climate and good soils for growing flax, as cultivations in history show. Our Swedish weavers are already asking for, and would prefer, to have Swedish flax in their production, says Eva Olsson, Chair of Skånelin.

This year, NordGen also begins another flax project in which a total of 436 different seed samples were recently sown to document morphological characteristics (plant height, flower color, flower size, etc) and determine whether they belong to the type for oil or fiber production. NordGen’s entire flax collection of 362 seed samples, is included in this cultivation. Most of these are categorized as breeding material donated by the former Swedish plant breeding company Svalöf Weibull. 74 additional seed samples of Nordic origin have been ordered from genebanks in Poland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. The traits of the seed samples from the European genebanks will be compared with the flax varieties in NordGen’s collection and if the characteristics differ, they will be included in the Nordic seed collection.

“It is important to repatriate the Nordic flax varieties and conserve them at NordGen. Another aim of the project is regeneration, i.e. harvesting seeds from all 436 seed samples so there will be volumes for future research projects. There is an interest in starting other research collaborations on flax, but then we need more seeds,” says Mohammad El-Khalifeh.


  • Flax has been grown and used for at least 7000 years and cultivation has been known in the Nordic region from around the second century. Up to the time of industrialization, flax cultivation was common throughout the Nordic region and was an important industry.
  • Oil flax can be used for the production of feed or food as well as paint, soap or linseed oil, which is a popular product for wood treatment.
  • Flax fibers are one of the strongest among plants and can be prepared to be used for textiles, ropes or various forms of insulation and sealing. Since flax is fire resistant, it has been used as insulation in fire doors.


  • The Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen) is the joint genebank and knowledge center for genetic resources in the Nordic countries. NordGen’s mission is to conserve and promote the sustainable use of genetic diversity among animals, forests and plants that are important for Nordic agriculture and forestry.
  • The Nordic seed collection contains more than 33 000 seed samples from almost 450 different plant species. NordGen also conserves 95 Nordic potato varieties.