Hayleys believes that food production can be most efficient when done in a manner which leverages the power of a healthy environment. We continue to look for contrarian agricultural techniques that can aid us in exploring and integrating this philosophy.
Hayleys is committed to a long term, regenerative farming model that leaves a positive legacy over time.
We look forward to ensure that the decisions we make today impact positively on future production and value.
Hayleys is committed to operating in harmony with the environment.
Utilising low-impact farming methods which maximise available sources of habitat and food, we are confident that, each year, we continue to enhance our local ecology.
Hayleys believes that a healthy ecology can do lots of the work that farmers try to do themselves.
Whether it’s using worms to cultivate our soil or letting natural predators do the work of pesticides, we believe that nature does a better job than we can.
What we grow
For improved yields, arable crops should be rotated, with different crops grown in each field each year.
Hayleys utilises the most modern and efficient methods available to grow a large variety of crops. You can read about some of the crops in our rotation below:
High protein wheat grown for bread flour production
Lower quality and higher yielding than milling wheat, this is used for livestock feed
Barley is used in beer production and animal feeds, depending on the variety
Rapeseed oil is used in cooking, as well as for bio fuels
Borage oil is used in infant nutrition products for its Omega-6 content
Ahiflower oil has a high Omega-3 content and is a vegan alternative to fish-based products
It takes over 100 years to produce a single inch of topsoil.
Healthy soils are needed to grow healthy crops. At Hayleys, improving the health of our soil is a key motivation behind every decision we make.
Our CrossSlot Direct Drill seeding next year’s crop into uncultivated land
Hayleys does not cultivate or plough its fields. When we are seeding a crop, we utilise specialist seeding equipment to plant the seed straight into the uncultivated field. We use the machine pictured above to cut a narrow slot into the ground and then drop the seeds into it. The machine then pinches the narrow slot back together to seal it.
There is almost zero disturbance to the soil and, by extension, the organisms that live in the soil; since adopting this system, the worm populations in our fields have risen phenomenally.
Because there is no loose soil at any point during the year, we minimise any opportunity for soil erosion. This is where heavy rain can wash soils off of fields and into neighbouring watercourses.
Also, from an environmental standpoint, because we can plant a crop in one operation, we burn significantly less fossil fuels than farmers who perform cultivation operations.
Phacelia cover crop
Fields left with bare soils over winter can leach nitrates into nearby watercourses and suffer from soil erosion. This can be devastating for aquatic wildlife, as well as soil health.
As much as possible, we try to have plants growing in our fields at all times. This means that we will frequently plant a “cover crop” that we have no plans to harvest! If a field is not quite ready for its next “cash crop” (a crop grown to be harvested), we will plant a cover crop.
Cover crops help to keep the soil biology alive, improve organic matter content and provide a habitat for wildlife.
When the field is sown with the next cash crop, the cover crop will become a “green” manure, steadily returning its nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.
Digestate being injected into the soil
We have tried to minimise our usage of artificial fertiliser. To replace it, we use the waste product from Anaerobic Digester (AD) plants. These take in your household food waste and make energy out of the gases it produces when it rots. We inject this syrup-like liquid into our soils as it has all the nutrients we need to feed our crops. Because it is organic, it is also hugely beneficial to the organisms living in our soil.
Grass buffer strip between the cropped field, and the hedge-line ditch
Whilst doing no cultivations and planting lots of cover crops reduces any likelihood of loose soil from the fields being washed into watercourses, we also surround the perimeter of our fields with buffer strips. These act as a barrier between the crop and the watercourse, keeping the nutritious top soil in the field, where it should be, and providing excellent habitat for wildlife.