June-July, 2020

A dry spring and early summer parched the oat fields – now the farmers are hoping for rain. In June, Hölsö farm carries out plant protection spraying and checks the fields for foreign crop species. And hopes for precious rain!

Although holidaymakers are delighted with the red-hot maps on the weather forecasts, oat farmers are desperately hoping for rain. Unlike other crops, oat in particular thrives in cool and rainy weather, when it produces fantastic harvests in comparison to dry growing seasons. An exceptionally warm and dry early summer has also parched the fields at Hölsö farm. The growing season has been everything we didn’t want: a cold and dry May followed by a hot, dry June. “We have only had 5 millilitres of rain since May, and that’s far too little,” laments farmer Mikko Hölsö.

Early expectations for the growing season were high due to the success of the previous year. Now the mood has changed, and farmers are hoping for enough rain even to grant them an average harvest. “A fantastic harvest is completely out of the question now, but if weather takes a wetter turn soon, there is still hope for an average harvest,” says Mikko.

The dry weather is most challenging for hard, clay land, which contained the least moisture even during the sowing season. If there is no rain all summer, the crops will ripen before their time and the harvest will be small in quantity. The grain will also remain small due to the dryness, and in the worst case it will no longer meet the size threshold for food-grade oats. “Even if it does rain, it will only affect the size of the grain now and not the quantity, because the crop decides on the number of grains during the early germination phase,” explains Mikko.

Dry weather often brings with it other problems, such as pest insects. Luckily, oat has rather few pest insects compared to oilseed rape and turnip rape. “Aphids are the most common issue during germination, when they spread barley yellow dwarf virus, which is the most common crop virus in Finland. Aphids are repelled using appropriate and tested pesticides,” says Mikko.

Pesticides are products that are approved for foodstuff production, such as various plant protection substances, which act as “vitamins and medicines” for crops.  The pesticide content in ripe crops and finished grain products is carefully monitored. In Finland, the finished products are safe and free from excess residual pesticides.


Heinäkuu kaura pellolla
Kaura pellolla
Kaura pellolla

Plant protection sprays are plant “vitamins” that help the crops to better withstand difficult conditions.

It is rare for oat fields to be artificially watered in Finland. Seedbed preparation, sowing depth, and pre-sowing fertiliser all play a decisive role in the plant’s water and nutrient intake. Mikko also favours the use of leaf fertiliser, which is spread using a plant protection sprayer and helps crops to absorb water and nutrients from the soil.  

A thriving and healthy plant population best utilises the nutrients in the soil and is also a much better carbon sequester than an unhealthy population. That’s why growth regulator is also sprayed on the fields to shorten and strengthen the plant stem and to strengthen the root system. This helps the crop to stay upright and makes it easier to harvest.

If the stem is very long, it will become lodged more easily. Lodged crops become susceptible to mould and do not meet quality requirements for food crops.

“If the autumn is too rainy, lodged crops do not dry for threshing and, in the worst case, the crop will begin to sprout and will therefore fail to meet quality requirements,” explains Mikko.

“All of the products we use are carefully tested and approved by authorities. We follow manufacturers’ dosages and instructions when using products,” says Mikko.

It is also important to prevent and treat weeds, as weeds:

  • lower the quantity, quality, and sales price of a crop harvest
  • cause the crop to have side tastes, and can be poisonous
  • act as host plants for many pest insects and plant diseases
  • make it more difficult to harvest the crops.

In addition to weeds, another concern in gluten free oat fields is foreign crop species that could make their way into the field. Farmers survey the fields several times each summer to weed out any foreign crop species.

Gluten free farming requires lots of hard work, but ensures that we produce pure, gluten free oat grains for Helsinki Mills. People who follow a gluten free diet for their health are sure to appreciate that our oat products are gluten free from field to fork.