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How to increase sugar beet yield

British Sugar processes all sugar beet grown here in the UK. Since they work with over 3000 growers, the competition is certainly on to secure excellent yields. In 2018, due to a shorter growing season, yields were down compared to the previous year, but the consensus is that yields are better than expected, given the late spring and summer drought.

In line with our mission – ‘To help agricultural farmers and farm contractors earn better’, we have curated a selection of tips and advice from the UK’s experts on how to increase sugar beet yields and ultimately earn better.

Expert insights on how to increase sugar beet yield

The two key components of sugar beet yield are the weight of sugar beet roots and the % sugar content of them. The combination of a high root yield and high sugar content will give the highest yield of sugar per hectare. At the sugar factory the high sugar content gives the lowest energy consumption during sugar extraction, mainly due to less evaporation of water. Growers are therefore normally paid a premium for achieving a high sugar content.

Relationship between radiation interception and sugar yield

High yields will come from producing a full leaf canopy that intercepts 90% of incoming sunlight as quickly as possible and maintains its greenness right through the growing season. Sugar beet, if grown well and does not flower, accumulates yield (sugar) from very early in its growth cycle. A balanced crop nutrition program including all macro and micro nutrients is essential to help manage all these components.

In summary:

  • Nitrogen increases sugar beet yield
  • Phosphorus is essential for early growth
  • Potassium and Sodium are both important
  • Sulphur is needed for high yields
  • Magnesium is essential for chlorophyll
  • Micronutrient deficiency will reduce yield

--- More on Yara

6 steps to build a better sugar beet yield

  1. Aim for 100,000 established plants per ha
  2. Avoid ‘hot’ mixes. Use herbicides that are both highly effective and give good crop safety
  3. Prioritise problem weeds
  4. Be ready for Beet leaf miner (Pegomya hyoscyami)
  5. Protect against disease
  6. Plan lifting

--- More on Bayer Crop Science

How to maximise sugar beet potential

Many factors determine yields, but the biggest – apart from rainfall -is rapid establishment, Mr Shailes says.

“Crops need to get to 100% canopy cover as quickly as possible to intercept light and build sugars over the main summer growing period.”

Key areas to focus on include:

  • Oil management and seedbed preparation
  • Early nitrogen – 30-40kg N/ha at drilling and remainder at full emergence
  • Weed control – robust control, avoid crop damage
  • Fungicides – budget at least one maybe two sprays
  • Control pests, particularly beet leaf miner
  • Tailor variety to soil type, disease risk, nematode threat, etc.
  • Beware increased beet cyst nematode incidence where growing oilseed rape in the rotation

--- More on H L Hutchinson Ltd

Sugar beet establishment tips

A Cambridgeshire sugar beet grower is hoping his zero tolerance of some weeds and patience with seed-beds will help deliver Britain’s highest sugar beet yield this season.

Paul Drinkwater, who is taking part in a sugar beet yield competition, believes good establishment is vital, as it sets the yield potential for the rest of the season.

Getting it wrong can dent yields, as crops never recover the lost potential. For example, allowing just one tall weed/sq m to survive can cost farmers 11t/ha in yield.

The task is made a bit more challenging this season, as the wet soils, combined with the cold, late spring, will test growers.

Mr Drinkwater, crop production manager at Abotts Ripton Farming Company, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, had one field last year that yielded at 129t/ha – impressive for a November lifting.

Alongside independent sugar beet expert Mike May, Mr Drinkwater tells Farmers Weekly how he ensures his crops get off to the best possible start.

--- More on Farmers Weekly

British sugar beet yield celebrates record year

British Sugar is celebrating a ‘record’ year for sugar beet yields, as crops have continued to increase over the past ten years.

--- More on Food Manufacture

If you would like your thoughts to be included in our ‘Insights’ articles, please contact Stuart Dixon on s.dixon@agri-linc.com.

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