Sustainable Farming Programme:
more oats of better

In 2022, we launched a sustainable farming programme together with our 11 contract farmers growing gluten free oats. Each farmer participating in the pilot programme aims to increase yields and reduce the environmental impact of farming through four measures.

In 2022, Helsinki Mills launched a practical environmental programme with its contract farmers to increase yields while reducing the environmental impact of cultivation. All the gluten free oat farms selected for the pilot programme are our long-term partners.

- With the Environmental and Sustainable Farming Programme, we are looking for even better-quality oats for our mills and a larger and better-quality harvest - even in poorer years," says Pekka Kultti, Procurement Manager of Helsinki Mills’s oats, who also grows gluten free oats himself.

According to Kultti, farmers were happy to participate in the pilot programme. The Environmental and Sustainable Farming Programme gives contract farmers the opportunity to improve their farm and adopt new technologies. Of course, it will also require a financial investment from the farmers, but the programme will give them the opportunity to do so. In addition to providing farmers with many good lessons for improving their own harvest, Helsinki Mills pays a premium price for the crops.

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- Helsinki Mills' environmental and sustainability programme is practical. It makes resource-efficient use of the entire arable area of the farm," says Kari Alasaari, a precision farming pioneer and farming consultant who is an expert in the farming programme.

- At the same time, the farming programme brings biodiversity values into the farms' operations, Alasaari emphasises. "Our goal is to take care of the soil fertility of the contract farms' land and prepare for changing climatic conditions so that the fields will grow good quality crops even in challenging growing seasons," he continues.

The farming programme includes two mandatory measures. Targeted fertilisation means that, for example, 70% of the normal amount of fertiliser is applied at sowing and the rest during the growing season, depending on what the plant needs to produce a good crop.

- In this way, we do not fertilise too much, nor too little, but optimise the amount of fertiliser. It reduces both the cost of farming and the environmental burden," says Pekka Kultti. "We get research-based advice and guidance on how to make fertilisation more efficient from fertiliser manufacturer Yara.

Another compulsory part of the programme is crop rotation based on plants. “Legumes and oil plants in a crop rotation improve the soil fertility of fields and increase biodiversity by providing food for pollinators," Kultti explains.

There are also eight measures, of which farmers choose two for each harvest season. Optional measures include the use of catch crops, extended field cover, extensive soil analysis, soil scanning, field condition assessment, diversity plots, crop maps and nutrient level calculations.


1.Targeted fertilisation: the right amount in the right place
The amount of fertiliser needed by the plant is closely monitored using various growth sensors. This saves on fertiliser costs, gives a better yield and the fertiliser applied to the plant is used for growth and does not run off into the environment.

2. Flowering plants in rotation: improving the soil fertility of fields 
Around a third of the farms' arable land is devoted to flowering crops such as turnip rape or peas. They are good for the soil, both in terms of structure and microbial activity. Oil plants and legumes reduce the need for pesticides and fertilisers and increase biodiversity by providing food for pollinators

3. Reducing tillage and catch crops 
Some fields are lightly tilled in autumn, while others are kept covered over the winter. This prevents nutrients from being leached by run-off and erosion. Cover crops and catch crops improve the structure of the field, increase carbon sequestration and the humus content of the field and the number of small organisms such as worms.

4. Soil scanning
Soil scanning helps the farmer to fertilise and lime the field in just the right places

5. Diversity fields
Diversity fields increase the diversity of the farmed environment. They are sown with meadow plants suitable for pollinators and birds

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