drilling sugar beet© Tim Scrivener

Six new varieties of sugar beet have made it through stringent field trials to be included in the Recommended List for 2018, with a top yield of 107%. 

The highest-yielding newcomer on the list managed by the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) and the British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB) is Daphna from KWS, giving 7% more yield than controls.

See also: British sugar back in Tesco supermarket

In second place is Senada, another KWS variety, at 106%, followed by Landon from Strube, at 105%.

But it’s not just about yield: varieties also need to show resilience to disease and bolting risk.

“To earn a place on the Recommended List, the new varieties have to perform well over three years of field trials,” said Mike May, chair of the Recommended List board.

Simon Bowen, knowledge exchange and crop progression lead of BBRO, is particularly interested in how the varieties perform in bolting trials.

He explained that a cold period would bring on vernalisation (the production of flowers), which is undesirable as the plant would produce seed instead of building sugar in the root.

The trials included a comparison between Early Sown Bolting (ESB) and Normal Sown Bolting (NSB) to see how a variety performs under severe conditions.

“The results mean that growers will be able to make an informed decision about the risk of bolting,” said Dr Bowen.

Of the six newcomers, Bloodhound is good and Daphna is suitable for early drilling, while Degas has a chance of bolting.

Disease

Disease resistance is also important. Landon and BTS 3325 both have a good rust score of 7, and the latter has a downy mildew score of 5.

New varieties for 2018 at a glance

Variety Adjusted yield
(% of control)
Other traits
Bloodhound 101 Good on bolting and establishment. Has a disease score of 3 for rust and 4 for powdery mildew. 
BTS 3325 103 Good pre-gap establishment, no problem with bolting. Scored 7 for rust and 5 for powdery mildew.
Daphna 107 Suitable for early sowing, tolerant to beet cyst nematode.
Degas 102 Chance of bolting, slightly weaker on disease.
Landon 105 Scored 7 for rust and 4 for powdery mildew.
Senada 106 Lower pre-gap establishment, so a higher seed rate may be required.

NOTE: Varieties were judged on percentage yield above the best three controls for bolting risk, tolerance to disease (on a 1-9 scale, where 9 is the highest resistance) and establishment before gapping to about 18cm.