September, 2020

After an eventful summer and autumn, threshing at Hölsö farm has finally come to an end.

In July, farmer Mikko Hölsö was concerned and predicted a record-low harvest, but the weather turned out to be favourable and the end result was better than expected. “In early July, the situation seemed catastrophic, but the rain and warm autumn weather came to the rescue and salvaged what could be saved,” says Mikko. “The quality of the grain was good on average, and the yield was 30 per cent of a regular growing season harvest.”

Grain grew and ripened unevenly

May and June were very dry, and farmers were desperate for rain. When it finally rained in July, the crops began to sprout tillers; or grow new shoots. The new stems ripened and were ready for threshing around a month later than the main harvest, which was already ready for threshing in August. The Hölsö farm also waited for new growth to be ready before threshing began.

The threshing weather was very favourable, as there were only a few brief periods of rain. Storm Aila, which ripped across Finland in mid-September, was in a league of its own, however. “The storm took out the crops that were ready for threshing at the same rate that we plant seeds in the field in the spring,” says Mikko.

Hölsö puinti
Kaura kypsä

How does a farmer know when it is time for threshing?

“Every cultivated crop species has a theoretical growth period in days, which is based on heat accumulation during the growth period.  It is of course only a theory, and this year showed once again that there is no clear answer to the question,” explains Mikko. In practice, farmers estimate the ripeness of crops by feel and eye. “Once the grains and stem have turned light yellow, and the moisture content of the grain is below 20 per cent, it is time to thresh,” says Mikko, and adds: “Sometimes the crop stem is still green, but the grain has already ripened. This is usually a sign that the soil has more energy than the crop can make use of.”

At Hölsö farm, threshing began on 2 September and ended on 25 September. Threshing lasted a total of three weeks. There are not many hours in the day for efficient threshing. “Efficient working time for threshing shortens considerably the further along you are in the threshing process, as in the morning you need to wait for dew to evaporate, and in the evening, the moisture sets in mainly when the sun goes down.”

The journey of oat grains from field to mill requires precision work and is subject to many regulations

Threshing is carried out using a New Holland TC combine harvester equipped with a 17-foot cutter bar. The combine harvester must always be adjusted for the crops before threshing begins. The combine harvester is also serviced and some bearings are greased every 10 hours while others are greased every 50 hours. First the combine harvester’s threshing drum and concave clearance are adjusted, as well as the speed at which the threshing drum rotates. When the crop moves between the threshing drum and the concave, the grain is separated from the chaff.

Next, the speed of the fan is adjusted. The fan’s task is to separate the grains from the chaff using sieves. The sieves are the last to be adjusted and their adjustments are checked in the field if necessary, as their adjustments are affected by the moisture, weight, and size of the grain, among other things.

The threshed grain is emptied into a tractor trailer, of which two were used – each with a volume of 230 hectolitres. From the field, the grain is taken to the dryer, which is a 350-hectolitre Arska manufactured in 2012. In the dryer, the grain is dried until its moisture level is around 12-13%, as the mill has set a maximum moisture limit of 14 per cent. After drying, the grain is moved to the metal storage silos inside the dryer.

Grain traceability requires all work phases to be precisely recorded

All events relating to the drying process are recorded: the day on which the crop was threshed, the threshed plot of land, the wet and dry weight of the grain, moisture percentage and weight, time spent drying and cooling the grain, and the storage silo. This means that every dried batch of grain can be traced back to the field.

This information is also used in the sowing plans for the following growing season. During the grain transportation phase, a comprehensive sample batch is taken and brought to Helsinki Mills for analysis. After preliminary samples are approved, the farmer works with Helsinki Mills to plan a more precise delivery schedule. Specialist transport company services are used for transporting gluten free goods.

Finally, the field is cultivated and left dormant over the winter

Before winter dormancy, the fields are cultivated so that they can collect as much energy as possible for the next growing season. When threshing, observations are made which form the basis for the necessary plant protection measures that are carried out on plots of land. Lime is spread over some plots of land to improve the soil.

Finally, autumn tilling is carried out by ploughing and cultivating the fields. Cultivation means light tilling on the field, where soil is moved as little as possible and the topsoil is covered with plant waste. Light tilling saves the farmer time and energy in the form of fuel. The field also benefits as the structure and humus content of the soil improves, and erosion problems are reduced. Light tilling retains the wormholes and root channels in the field, which keep the field loose and breathable. After this, the field can rest and collect energy until the following spring.

Also used as a source: Maatilan Pellervo (

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