The 2019 sugar beet harvest is underway, with three out of British Sugar’s four factories open for business. Bury St Edmunds and Newark were the first factories to open, on September 17, while Cantley will start receiving beet deliveries from October 1.
Paul Kenward, managing director of British Sugar says this year crop is generally looking very positive, although some areas are suffering from the lack of rainfall.
He says: “We think the crop overall is very positive. We had a good start to the season - conditions were very good for drilling and we had good climatic conditions as the crop was establishing.
“There are some fields which are very positive and have great weights - some of the growers supplying Newark have great lifting conditions.
"Our analysis shows a very high potential for some of those fields, but there are other fields particularly towards the East where there has been much less localised rainfall.
"We have some fields which are showing signs of drought stress and there are some wilting fields of beet.”
Lifting is proving challenging on heavier soils which experienced heavy rain, followed by hot and windy weather, according to Hutchinsons agronomist Darryl Shailes. These soils are now tight and lifting whole beet without leaving some in the ground is difficult. Wear and tear on the harvesters will also be high. A good dollop of rain will help," he says.
Cambridgeshire grower James Peck says he is taking advantage of the dry time to get on, with lifting starting last week (September 18) for the Bury plant.
He says: “We thought the dry might give us issues but as its stands at the moment, the entire tap root is coming up with the beet so we’re not experiencing harvest difficulties that I know other people are.
“The crop looks more forward than it has in previous years, mainly due to the fact that we were able to drill typically six weeks earlier than what we have the previous two years.
“The drought meant leaves have changed colour dramatically across the season, so we don’t know what effect that’s had on yield at this stage.”