It's the end for Bertie the Beet

POOR old Bertie the Beet has had a tough year.Not only has he had to contend with the usual aphid attacks and various nibbles from passing hares, rabbits and pheasants, but the sugar beet at a Suffolk experimental station has survived one of the worst droughts in living memory.

POOR old Bertie the Beet has had a tough year.

Not only has he had to contend with the usual aphid attacks and various nibbles from passing hares, rabbits and pheasants, but the sugar beet at a Suffolk experimental station has survived one of the worst droughts in living memory.

Shrivelled and a shadow of what he should have been at harvest time, Bertie was dug up yesterdayusing the traditional beet fork and knife.

Experts at the Institute of Arable Crops Research at Brooms Barn in Higham, near Bury St Edmunds, said Bertie weighed in at only 599 grams – around half the weight of his predecessor last year.


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However, they expect him to yield around 18% sugar, around 27 sachets, when he is processed later todaywhich is estimated to be significantly more than the sugar yield of irrigated beet nearby.

The irrigated beet, which received eight inches more water than Bertie, are weighing in at more than a kilo each.

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Stephen Goward, field trials manager at the station, said Bertie has been photographed weekly with the pictures posted on the website www.bertiethebeet.co.uk, during the growing season to help farmers with their own crops.

It is the third year beet from the station have taken on celebrity status, with thousands of hits on the website from the general public every week as well as farmers.

Mr Goward said the 2003 beet season was particularly significant for the research station: "It's been a big year because of the drought. Growers know how severely the lack of rain has affected their yields and we're doing quite a bit of work here on developing varieties of beet for drought tolerance.

"Perhaps in future years farmers won't have to worry quite so much about the amount of rain fall."

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