Pay close attention to clamp ventilation and frost protection for successful storage of late-lifted beet this season.

Ventilation – Covers – Policy developments

STRIKING A balance between ventilation and frost protection is the key to successful late-season beet storage, according to British Sugar. 



Ventilation

Well-managed clamps should have temperatures of 0-10C, said project manager Jonathan Pilbrow. 

“The idea is to have good enough ventilation to stop temperatures from rising too high, but sufficient frost protection to ensure beet are not frozen and damaged.” Big bales make excellent clamp walls and offer good frost defence, he said.

“But they can stop rainwater draining away, so placing them on pallets is a good way of getting drainage.”

There is no need to block the air gaps between the pallet boards. Even if temperatures fall below freezing, frost will not penetrate the clamp too far, he added.

Clamp walls 2.5m (8ft) high will stop frost entering clamps. “But in mild weather, they will prevent heat escaping and may create ‘hot spots‘. A better solution is to use a bale wall only 1.2m high, together with a clamp cover.”

Very exposed sites may justify a 2.5m retaining wall on the east or north face, he said.

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Covers

Clamp sides should be covered when air temperatures are forecast to drop below -2.5C for more than one night, and the tops should be covered if -3.5C is predicted, advised Mr Pilbrow.

“It‘s important to remove covers once the frost risk has passed to prevent heat build-up.”

Suitable covers include straw, but it is labour-intensive to use. Polypropylene sheets are good insulators, easily applied and removed, but need at least two people to handle them in windy weather.

Polyfelt material is best, he said. “It‘s lighter and easier to handle, provides good insulation and allows air to pass through. If you look after the sheets and store them well when not in use, they‘ll last for ages.

Don‘t opt for plastic – it doesn‘t breathe and the beet will heat and swell up.” Optimum clamp size is 2.5m high, 10m wide and long enough to accommodate the beet volume. Clamp surfaces must be flat and free from frost pockets. 

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Policy developments

A glimmer OF hope for British sugar producers emerged at the Crops conference in Perth (Nov 9) as Brussels DG Agriculture policy adviser Joao Onofre gave his views on likely developments in EU policy.

“Sugar reform will be a long and hard process, but will have little impact on the UK compared with the rest of the EU,” he explained.

But the EU cap on total farm aid is a worry. “It‘s set in stone at around e43bn (£28bn).”

See Farmers Weekly for the latest baseline advice and industry developments.

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