New sugar beet varieties tolerant to the twin threats of beet cyst nematode and rhizomania were on show, one each from breeders KWS and Hilleshog.

First to the market will be Fiorenza, which should be available for 2010 drillings, said Jorg Phillips from KWS.

“This type of variety already takes 7% of sales in Europe, as they are approved for use in France, the Netherlands and Belgium,” he said. “It’s an exciting development for growers because it offers good yields both with and without nematodes being present.”

Beet cyst nematode caused yield loss at low levels of infestation, he added. “It’s very similar to potato cyst nematode in behaviour and the crop suffers more in dry conditions.”

Yield loss of up to 30% were not unusual, said Mr Phillips. “And growers don’t have the granular control options any more. So the best way to overcome the challenge of the pest is with resistant varieties.”

Richard Powell

Richard Powell reckons the UK market for double tolerant varieties is around 10% of current sales

Richard Powell of Hilleshog agreed, saying: “We believe the UK market for double tolerant varieties is around 10% of the current sales.”

Hilleshog’s double tolerant variety, HI0551, is a year behind that of KWS, being in its second year of NIAB trials.

With the same double tolerance to beet cyst nematode and rhizomania, it also has the low tare root shape common to all Hilleshog varieties. Yields have been good, bucking the yield drag often associated with disease-tolerant varieties.

“We know growers are losing yield to the nematode,” said Mr Powell. “And their other control options are dwindling. There is a seed treatment from Syngenta on the horizon, though, which has worked well in cotton and maize.”

Volker Utesch

KWS’s Fiorenza will be available in two years’ time

Dr Mark Stevens of Broom’s Barn said beet cyst nematode was an increasing problem for UK growers.

“It’s only going to get worse. Sugar beet production has been concentrated in a geographical area and climate change will allow the pest to produce more generations each year.

“So it appears as though these double tolerant varieties will arrive on the market at just the right time.”

Tempest

Sugar beet growers should expect to see the highest number of bolters in 2008 that they have witnessed for 20 years, warned Richard Powell of Hilleshog.

“Bolting has been triggered and they are already appearing,” he said. “A late February sown trial has up to 5% bolters, which works out at 4500 plants a hectare.”

Variety bolting scores would become more important as growers took advantage of early drilling to increase yields, he said.

“Tempest, which is one of the seven varieties added to the Recommended List for 2009, has the lowest bolting score of all. In three years of trials, it hasn’t had a single bolter in the early sown plots.”

Dominika used to be the gold standard for bolting, said Mr Powell. “There are now six varieties which are better, and all are from Scandinavia. But there is a huge range in early sown bolting, so growers should look carefully if they’re planning to sow early.”

Tempest was being offered at a lower price than other new varieties, added Mr Powell. “It’s £10 less than Carissima.”

Haulage costs

Transport costs are up by about 33% this year and are of great concern to sugar beet growers, said Richard Powell.

Hilleshog’s ready-reckoner on its stand at Cereals 2008 allowed visitors to calculate the potential reduction in lorryloads by choosing the right variety.

“The combination of high sugar content and low-dirt tares, which is found in all of our varieties, reduces the loads required to deliver a contract,” he said. “This can be by as much as 10%.”

The sweeter varieties have 5% more sugar on every lorryload, said Mr Powell. “If you then add that to the benefit of the better shape, you get 5% more adjusted tonnes. It can make quite a difference.”