A new model will give sugar beet growers more accurate safe sowing dates for each variety and provide improved bolting risk forecasting as the season progresses.

Currently, varieties included on the BBRO Recommended List have a bolting score that represents the average number of bolters it produced during the previous three years of trials.

“However, bolting pressure may have been low during that period, as it varies so much from season to season,” said Colin Walters, agricultural development manager at British Sugar.

Growers are, therefore, making a decision to sow early with what appears to be a low bolting variety, but the crop may turn out to produce a much higher number of bolters in a commercial situation following establishment.

“The model takes away the seasonal effect of the current system by including drilling variety trials – especially early, normal and late – to give a full spectrum of vernalising intensity,” explains Mr Walters.

When combining each variety’s propensity to bolt with long-term local weather data, it is hoped the model will provide growers with an accurate safe sowing date to reduce bolting risk.

It will also allow live analysis of conditions during the season to forecast when crops are likely to bolt, prompting growers to get into the field to assess and manage bolters.

“It won’t guarantee no bolting, but it will be a useful decision support system for growers to improve management of their crops,” added Mr Walters.

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