CGN flax collection

The flax collection was established long before the Second World War by the Department of Plant Breeding (IVP) of the Agricultural University of Wageningen. Later the collection became a working collection of the former Foundation for Plant Breeding (SVP) at Wageningen and was utilised in flax breeding research programmes between1948 and 1996. The collection consists of 947 accessions of both fibre flax and linseed.

The Linum germplasm was particularly utilised for resistance breeding to flax scorch (Pythium megalacanthum), wilt (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lini) and rust (Melampsora lini). Material of the collection was also used for the improvement of the fibre content. The collection was adopted by CGN in 1995 (Van Soest 1998) after the encouragement of a group of four private Dutch breeding companies, who were anxious to see this valuable collection properly maintained and stored under optimal conditions. In 1996 a cooperation was established between the breeding companies and CGN.

The collection includes 490 accessions of fibre flax, 440 accessions of linseed and four accessions of two wild species. The collection consists of landraces, cultivars and research material. A large part of the collection is of European origin but accessions from the USA, Canada, Australia, Turkey , Japan and several countries of N. Africa are also included. (Van Soest 1998).

There are several old landraces in the collection, e.g. Fries Landras (NLD, 1816), Crete (TUR, 1914), Bombay (IND, 1917) and Soddo (ETH, 1914). Furthermore, several cultivars developed early in this century, often from old landraces, are included in the collection (e.g. Blenda, NLD, 1926; Frontier, USA, 1898; Pioneer, GBR, 1921 and Ottawa White Flower, CAN, 1913). A large number of accessions, described as research material, are found in the collection. The information on this material is limited, often the origin nor the properties for which the material (particularly research lines) was selected, are known. Most of this research material was developed more than 20 years ago.

Regeneration and characterization/ evaluation

Before adopting the collection, the last regeneration of the Linum collection was conducted by the former Foundation for Plant Breeding (SVP) in 1981. The collection was stored in paper bags under medium term storage conditions (4 °C and 30% relative humidity). Material from the collection was used in breeding research up to 1995. Although the viability of the seeds of most of the collection was still reasonable the seed quantities of a large number of accessions became limited. In 1995 CGN took the decision to adopt the collection and in 1996 an agreement was made between CGN and the group of four Dutch private flax breeding companies, by which the breeders agreed to rejuvenate, characterize and partly evaluate the Linum collection. Annually, each company received around 50 accessions which were multiplied, characterised and evaluated for some properties following a jointly developed descriptor list. All accessions have been regenerated and included in the CGN collection.

In order to conduct the characterisation and evaluation of the collection a minimal descriptor list has been developed (Van Soest 1996). The descriptors for Linum are based on the list of the International Flax Data Base (IFDB) of the FAO European Cooperative Network on Flax (Rosenberg and Pavelek1993; Pavelek 1995, 1998). In total 16 descriptors were included on the list and after a final discussion with the flax breeders the list was divided in the following two groups:

  • Ten mandatory descriptors, these traits need always to be recorded during the regeneration;
  • Six optional descriptors, these traits can be recorded when sufficient time is available or, in the case of diseases for which the character can be optimal scored in the field. Some of these descriptors (quality properties) cannot be screened during the maintenance of the material as special analyses are required (e.g. fibre and oil content).

Flax core collection

A flax core collection of 83 accessions, was developed during the period 1998 to 2001, reducing the accessions subsequently over the years. The reduction was based on passport data and information obtained after characterisation and determination of fibre content data of selected material grown in the field from 1999 to 2001 (Van Soest and Bas 2002). From this collection 52 accessions were evaluated for fibre content both by the warm retting and green decortication methods by CGN and ATO (Agrotechnological Research Institute, Wageningen) (Oever et al. 2003). These data are downloadable and searchable on the CGN website.


Bas, N. en L.J.M. van Soest (1999). CGN stelt unieke vlascollectie veilig. Prophyta 52 (6): 7-9. Pavelek, M. (1995). Further development of international flax database and specific descriptors for more detail evaluation of agronomic and processing characters. Proceedings of the third meeting of the International Flax Breeding Group at St.Valery en Caux, France, 7-8 November, 1995, pp.1-13.

Pavelek, M. (1998). Analysis of current state of the International Flax Database. Proceedings of the symposium 'Bast Fibrous Plants Today and Tomorrow' at the VIR, St Petersburg, Russia, 28-30 September 1998. Institute of Natural Fibres, Poznan, Poland. pp. 36-44.

Rosenberg, L.  and M. Pavelek, 1993. Report of Flax Genetic Resources Workshop, first meeting, Poznan,9-10 November, 1993, Fao Reur, Rome and State Institute for Testing in Brno. pp.3-7.

Van den Oever, M.J.A., N. Bas, L.J.M. van Soest, C. Melis and J.E.G. van Dam (2003). Improved method for fibre content and quality analysis and their application to flax genetic diversity investigations. Industrial Crops and Products 18, 231-243.

Van Soest, L.J.M. (1996). Descriptors for flax (Linum spp.). Centre for Plant Breeding and Reproduction Research (CPRO-DLO), Centre for Genetic Resources, The Netherlands (CGN), Wageningen, The Netherlands. 6p.

Van Soest, L.J.M. and N. Bas (1998). Genetic Resources of Linum in The Netherlands. Proceedings of the symposium 'Bast Fibrous Plants Today and Tomorrow' at the VIR, St Petersburg, Russia, 28-30 September 1998. Institute of Natural Fibres, Poznan, Poland. pp. 67-68. Van Soest, L.J.M. and N. Bas (2002). Current status of the CGN Linum collection. In: Maggioni, L., M. Pavelek & L.J.M. van Soest, compilers. Report of an ECP/GR ad hoc meeting on Flax genetic resources. 7-8 December 2001, Prague, Czech Republic. IPGRI, Rome, Italy.