Sustainable Farming and the Environment

Farming has undergone extreme changes during the last decade and we are embracing new practices that improve soil quality and reduce any negative impact we may have on our environment. Sustainability is a word bandied about far too much. To us it means putting back in to the farm what we take out and ensuring that the hierarchy of our ecosystem is left as natural as possible.

Rape is only a part of what we grow here on our farm. In addition, we grow wheat and barley on a three yearly rotation and have been experimenting with other lesser grown cereals. We put a third of the farm into winter stubble each year to allow the soil time to regenerate.

R-Oil has been a participant in Syngeta’s Operation Pollinator project to enhance biodiversity and boost the number of pollinating insects.

As a brassica, Rape is a favourite of slugs and has been widely affected by flea beetle, a small black shiny insect that attacks it at all stages of growth. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoids (a chemical used to dress seed before being planted) in 2016 due to a fear of how they affect bees. Neonicotinoids made the plant less appetising to flea beetle and assisted the plant’s initial stage of growth by getting it out of the ground quickly.

With no more Neonics, we are permanently trialling new methods to keep the flea beetle at bay. At present, we are hoping that the application of digestate on the land prior to planting will be off putting to the flea beetle. Digestate is the bi product of a local anaerobic digestion plant used to turn food waste into electricity. The rotten vegetables etc give off methane which is harnessed and used as power and the incredibly nutritious waste is pasteurised (in case of any unwanted bacteria) and then spread on the land as an alternative to industrial fertilisers. So, we are taking an environmentally sound way of creating power and using their biproduct to hopefully control a devilish pest in an extremely environmentally protective way.

In addition, we have a permanent tractor and trailer collecting farmyard manure from many of the local racing/ riding stables and cattle yards. We spread this all over the land, building organic matter in the soil thereby attracting worms, assisting water retention and hopefully creating the perfect seed bed to maximise growth.

With our specially planted environmental crops and stewardship schemes, backed by the government, we put huge effort into providing habitat for as many species as possible. We have no need to rewild as pre any government schemes, large swathes of the farm have been untouched for decades. The number of different creatures around at any one time is always astonishing; we love our bees and their hives (they love our rape!), are cheered by the sound of our sky larks, adore our hares, marvel at our deer and watch our beetle banks with much fascination!

Here at R-Oil we recognise that we are on the edge of a terrifying plastic war. We have always bottled our oil in a glass bottle without a plastic pourer and use aluminium cans. We will continue to do so!!!

We have a strong recycling ethic and designed a 20 litre can with a removable lid some 10 years ago, enabling users to put waste oil back into a can and return them to us to be turned into bio fuel. We have a delivery / pick up service and cover much of the country, carefully coordinating our customers so that the number of vans on the road is kept to a minimum. Where possible if an aluminium can is recyclable, we will scrub it (using a very high tech dishwasher that uses minute balls to scrub the cans so reducing water and chemical usage) and reuse it.

Bee farmers appreciate the space that farmers allocate for apiaries on their land. The flowering crops such as Oil Seed Rape provide the billions of flowers that our bees need to thrive.  It is widely recognised that there is a  need to reverse pollinator decline. The bee farming industry is in a unique position to help improve crop yields and increase productivity. Fosse Way Honey and R-Oil have worked together for a number of years helping each other to produce excellent food and drink products in The Cotswolds ”

Chris Atkins, our Apiarist