Heritage farm began Oats 2.0 farming programme

Climate-friendly food production is important for everyone: humans, buzzy bugs, nature, soil, farmer and the mill. The Mäki-Latvala family farm in Ilmajoki, which had been owned by the family for more than 200 years, started a new kind of oat farming as a partner of Helsinki Mills. The oats grown on the Mäki-Latvala farm use the main elements of regenerative farming methods.

MIKKO MÄKI-LATVALA GETS EXCITED ABOUT NEW THINGS

- I became a farmer on our family farm twelve years ago. Today, our farm is managed by a four-person farming family, which includes me, my wife Elina and my uncle Veikko with his wife Minna, says Mikko Mäki-Latvala.

- I've always been interested in everything new, and we've also tried a lot of different things on our farm, such as different varieties, tillage methods, fertilisation and crop rotation. We are actively looking for innovative solutions in the sector, because we want to be at the forefront of the industry. The Helsinki Mills 2.0 oat farming programme is just such a new kind of project, and it was easy to get excited about it. It can further improve the production of domestic food.

A LONG COLLABORATION BLOSSOMED INTO A FUTURE FARMING PROJECT

The Mäki-Latvala farm has been cooperating with Helsinki Mills for a long time.

- Our collaboration started even before I became a full-time farmer. For example, we have been involved as contract growers of gluten free pure oats, ensuring that the oats are gluten free from the moment they are grown in the field.

So, it was only natural for Helsinki Mills to propose Mikko a new type of 2.0 farming programme where no pesticides are used at all in oat cultivation. Buzzy bugs can pollinate the oat fields in peace. In addition, oats are grown with particular attention to biodiversity, soil condition and carbon sequestration.

- In this context, we have followed a quality farming programme, which means, for example, fertilising only when the plant needs it, using flowering plants in the crop rotation and using carbon and nutrient fixing catch crops," Mikko says.

Mikko Mäki-Latvala

The Oats 2.0 farming programme is a new kind of project, and it was easy to get excited about it. It can further improve the production of domestic food.

Kaura pelto 2.0
Kaura pelto 2.0 Kimalainen pöyttämässä

It is vital for us Finns that our fields produce good harvests despite climate change. That's why the Oats 2.0 project is part of the future.

THE 2.0 FARMING PROGRAMME TAKES NATURE INTO ACCOUNT IN MANY WAYS

- The threshold for using oat pesticides on our farm has already been high. Different scourges, such as aphids, vary from year to year and we are now committed to taking the risk of growing crops without pest control. Helsinki Mills is committed to pay a price for oats that will enable us to absorb any losses caused by pests.

- We take care of buzzy bugs by growing flowering plants in as part of our crop rotation. When it comes to oil plants, turnip rape and rapeseed, both of which are entirely dependent on pollinators, are suitable for this purpose. We also use pea plants, which also help with organic fertilisation by storing atmospheric nitrogen in the soil through their root systems. We also sow mixtures of several flowering plants to create pollinator strips along the edges of our cereal fields.

- Catch crops collect organic matter in the roots of the crop, which turns to humus as it decays. However, care must be taken here, as the catch crop can also choke out the cereal in the battle for space. Autumn sowing helps in finding a balance. Often, for example, white clover is used as a catch crop. When the crop is harvested, the white clover still provides a fine meal for pollinators, and as the term catch crop suggests, it collects the unused nutrients from the soil.

During the growing season, precision fertilisation is used.

- Instead of applying fertiliser "blind" at sowing, without knowing the conditions of the coming growing season, we do it in a precise way throughout the growing season, taking advantage of satellite imagery: The satellite images the fields every few days. The image is used to analyse the biomass of the crop, and with this precise fertilisation map, the machine applies the right amount of fertiliser to each spot, guided by GPS. So, a smaller amount of fertiliser will produce a bigger yield," Mikko explains.

The effectiveness of fertilisation is measured by nutrient balance calculations.

- We monitor how much nutrients have been used to grow oats, and how much nutrients have left the field with the harvest. The idea is that those numbers should be as close to equal as possible, so that fertilisation does not burden the environment.

- So, resource efficiency is at the heart of method. To get the best possible return on investment. While the EU's environmental scheme requires soil samples from fields every four hectares, we thoroughly scan fields down to a depth of one metre. This gives us excellent, accurate information on the situation of our fields. We have found that there is greater variation in soil within fields than between fields. When we know what the situation is at each part of the field, we can target the measures we take just right. This saves the environment and still produces a good harvest everywhere," says Mikko.

IS THIS REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE?

- It is vital for us Finns that our fields produce good harvests despite climate change. That's why the Oats 2.0 project is part of the future. When cultivation becomes regenerative is not an on/off switch sort of situation, but all these measures are included in regenerative farming. Increased humus content, i.e. the amount of organic matter in the fields, indicates that carbon sequestration has increased. In theory, we know how to do it, but monitoring will eventually show the results. Change is slow and the monitoring interval is five years. Traditional soil analysis uses a coarse scale to assess the sensory evaluation of soil compaction. In addition to field scanning, we measure the humus content of soil samples by a more accurate ignition loss measuring. This is a slightly more valuable research method, but I think it's worth the price," Mikko assures.

FIRST OATS 2.0 DELIVERIES IN EARLY JANUARY

The first load of oats grown under the Oats 2.0 farming programme was collected from the Mäki-Latvala farm just after the end of Epiphany in January.

- This was an exciting moment for us. The rainy autumn brought challenges for the growth of good-yielding, late oat varieties. It was a balancing act between harvesting and threshing time. But we did a fantastic job, all the samples taken from the crop were first class. A good field produced good grain, Mikko Mäki-Latvala says happily.

Kaura pelto 2.0

You may also be interested in

Oats 2.0 programme takes farming to the next level while caring for nature
Farming 29.12.2023

Oats 2.0 programme takes farming to the next level while caring for nature

At Helsinki Mills, we have long considered the environmental impact of farming, and we want to become even better at … Read more

Carbon neutral since 2020
Sustainability 08.12.2023

Carbon neutral since 2020

Let us toot our own horn for a moment. We are the first mill in Finland to eliminate its carbon … Read more

Locally grown oats are vegan
Sustainability 01.11.2023

Locally grown oats are vegan

Locally grown oats are sustainable and vegan, and five other reasons to add oats to your vegan diet. Read more

All of 2022’s sustainability acts
Sustainability 03.10.2023

All of 2022’s sustainability acts

A few extracts from our 2022 report. The first harvest of oats under the environmental programme was completed. The carbon … Read more