Strong Yields First Indication for Sugar Beet Campaign – Arable Farming – Darryl Shailes

Posted on

Darryl Shailes HLH. jpegThe sugar beet campaign is underway – and first indications are of strong yields

At the time of writing it is still very dry in East Anglia and some growers are even suggesting it is worse than the long, hot summer of 2018, which seems incredible.

Certainly, the grass growth is slowing, but I don't think it is as bad as last year, for us at least, although the garden pond is dry, despite living on the floodplain of the River Waveney.

The drainage system of the water meadows is about the same level as in 2018, but it is managed by the Environment Agency so they can maintain a higher water level.

I have however, just started so see some grass being irrigated for cattle grazing on the slightly higher ground, which is a first for me, so that in itself tells a story.

The sugar beet campaign has started and first indications are of strong yields. Heavier soils, especially where there have been heavy rains, followed by very hot and windy weather, are proving a challenge for both harvesters and patience.

These soils are now very tight and lifting whole beet without leaving some in the ground is difficult. Wear and tear on the harvester will also be high. A good dollop of rain will help but there is nothing in the immediate forecast.

Who knows, though? When you're reading this it could be pouring down and everyone wanting it to stop, such are the vagaries of the UK weather.

There is some evidence of disease about, especially rust, but the anticipated cercospora is still not as bad as it could be as it is too dry for it to develop rapidly.

It came in late last year and rapidly defoliated some crops, so not a time to be relaxing with fungicides, especially if you are lifting later into the year or early next.


The beet price for 2020 has just been announced and yield will once again be the key to success in the crop, so the lessons learned about attention to detail by the finalists in the Beet Yield Challenge will need to be learned by all growers.

The potato harvest is suffering as a result of the dry conditions, with some growers having to irrigate to help lift crops where they are set solid in the ground. If dry matter is high, irrigation post burn-down will have very little effect in getting water into the tubers, apart from some osmosis. Once the crop has been stopped and the stolons have been abscised, there is no longer any transport of water via the plant, so the amount that can be taken up is minimal.

This means irrigation will have very little effect on bruising, apart from possibly keeping some soil on the web to reduce the physical damage at lifting.

Where possible it is best to irrigate pre-burn down, at least then the crop has some opportunity to affect the turgor of the tubers prior to lifting.

One of the big issues facing growers is the loss of CIPC (chlorpropham), not only for its ability to control tubers but also the fact that stores which have been gassed in the past will still be leaking CIPC to the crop.

The industry is working hard to get extensions for a gradual MRL reduction to make stores useable for storage while this depletion of the CIPC in the actual fabric of the store occurs. AHDB Potatoes is working hard with packers, processors and other members of the CIPC task force to come up with a series of guidelines and best practice advice on cleaning old stores to accelerate this depletion.

Keep an eye out or speak to your local AHDB knowledge exchange manager for the latest information.