Current estimates are that 25% of harvester engine hours are spent out of the crop, indicating this as an area with plenty of scope for improvement, says Mr May.

Fixed costs probably offer the most scope for efficiencies, admits Mr Harrold who already operates in a group for deliveries.
“Harvesting is one area we could take cost out by utilising group harvesting.”

The need to minimise the time beet roots spend in storage is generally acknowledged.

But our anonymous producer (on medium to heavy land) highlights the downsides of “just-in-time” lifting.

“Axle loads exceeding 10t can cause compaction below subsoiling depth and therefore beyond rectification,” he warns.

“There are also cross-compliance issues when harvesting beet when soils are saturated.”

Mr Ireland’s nine-year-old machine is cheap to run but coming to the end of its days.

“We would then look at a contractor, which would be much more expensive and probably not as flexible, unless we organised ourselves into a local beet group and that machine didn’t move more than a 10 mile radius.”

Mr Bambridge says he is already part of a syndicate that has invested heavily in good machinery and employs top quality staff to optimise its use over economically viable areas.

“The result is a very competitive cost per tonne for harvesting.”

Mr Home-Roberts switched to a contractor for lifting four years ago due to the cost of a replacement harvester.