Sugar beet growers aim to maximise crop’s potential as BBRO competition launched

Darryl Shailes root crop technical manager of Hutchinsons in the sugar beet field at time of drilli

Darryl Shailes root crop technical manager of Hutchinsons in the sugar beet field at time of drilling. Picture: NEVILLE STYLES - Credit: Neville Styles

A competition has been launched this season to help sugar beet growers close the gap between the theoretical potential of crops and actual farm yields.

A sugar beet crop. Picture: PAUL HOBSON

A sugar beet crop. Picture: PAUL HOBSON - Credit: Paul Hobson

The British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) says UK yields up to 145t/ha have been achieved, around double the farm average.

Yield potential varies considerably across farms and fields though, so the Beet Yield Competition, a joint initiative between BBRO, British Sugar, Hutchinsons and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), is looking for growers who maximise crop potential rather than produce the highest yield.

Some 32 growers are taking part and winners will be those achieving the highest percentage of theoretical yield potential for their chosen site, including Velcourt’s Rougham Estate manager Simon Eddell.

Baseline potential is assessed by BBRO using a beet growth model developed and validated against commercial crops over many seasons. This is based on a range of factors including location, soil type, drilling date, weather and variety. It is revised through the season to account for rainfall variations.

The competition applies to whole fields of at least 2ha, including headlands. Four regional winners, one for each beet factory, will be announced after the 2017/18 campaign ends, from which an overall winner is selected.

“The aim is to increase yields among participating growers and use findings to improve national crop performance,” said Hutchinsons root crop technical manager Darryl Shailes.

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“Many factors are beyond growers’ control, but there are things which can be managed relatively easily. Until you start measuring the theoretical yield potential of a site you can’t tell how close crops are to fulfilling it.”

As well as allowing comparisons of “actual” and “potential” farm yields and improving the understanding of how the gap between the two can be closed, the competition provides opportunity to use combined data to examine trends and relationships, said Dr Simon Bowen of BBRO.

“Crop development, yield, soil, weather, and rotational information will all be in one place to allow us to analyse the effects of different factors,” he said.