Råbelöf may have been producing crops of consistently high quality for generations, but for this to continue the land must be farmed sustainably.
Back in 1997 we therefore started working with the Farmers Association and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences to develop an entirely new farming concept that was to be both high yield and sustainable.
Our starting point was the wheat itself, which in Sweden is GMO free, since genetically modified crops are illegal throughout Europe.
WHY IS ELYX USING WINTER WHEAT?
We chose winter wheat over spring wheat because of the many advantages it offers. Sown in September and harvested in August, winter wheat reduces nutrient leakage, since left brown or unsown during the rainy winter months, more of the soil’s nutrients would be washed away.
Winter wheat doesn’t need any irrigation either, which helps us to meet our water conservation goal. This is because its root system has plenty of time to become established and find a water source before the spring, when we often experience droughts. Because it’s sown in the autumn, the cold winter temperatures also help to control bugs, naturally reducing winter wheat’s need for pesticides.
The choice of winter over spring wheat is important then, but Elyx goes further. Together with the local university, we have developed – and continue to refine – particular varieties of winter wheat. These are hardier than normal and more resistant to pests. With variety can come inconsistency, but not in Elyx’s case. Despite the different strains, we are still able to ensure there is never more than 1% variance in the starch content of our wheat, guaranteeing the same flavour and other celebrated characteristics in every bottle of Elyx.
CARING ABOUT THE SOIL AS MUCH AS THE SEEDS
Next, we focused on how to cultivate the soil, since this too can have a significant impact on the long-term sustainability of crops and the farmland on which they grow.
Add too many nutrients and they will leak into our shimmering lakes and rivers; too few and the soil will become impoverished. Similarly, use too many pesticides and their residues will remain long after the crops; too few and they won’t protect our most vital ingredient.
The answer is to maintain exactly the right balance of both. We do this by encouraging Råbelöf to use only the fertiliser plants need, and no more.
The farmer also plants capture crops between each year’s wheat harvest. These are allowed to grow and then ploughed back into the land, helping to hold onto the nitrogen and phosphor in the soil, ready for the next crop of wheat.
Like many in the area, Råbelöf is a mixed farm and combines crop cultivation with pig and cow farming. Most of the fertiliser used is produced naturally by the animals on the estate. They, in turn, are fed with the residue or stillage left over from mashing at the distillery. It is a circular process, typical of Elyx, in which nothing is wasted.
Elyx also stipulates the type of pesticide to be used – one that is kind to good bugs like bees and ladybirds. Even then, it should only be used when necessary and in strictly prescribed amounts.
As well as backing up each of our recommendations with field tests and scientific fact, we also reward Råbelöf for growing our wheat using Elyx’s sustainable farming concept. This way everyone benefits: the farmer, the environment and ourselves.