On light land in the east, around 80% has been drilled so far and with some crops emerging, progress is a week to ten days ahead of usual, said the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO).
“It is a remarkably early start – to have some seedlings up by the end of March is exceptionally early,” said the BBRO‘s Keith Jaggard.
Nationally, around two thirds of the sugar beet crop is already in the ground – compared to 18% at the same time last year, added British Sugar‘s Colin Walters.
Most progress has been made in the West Midlands, while drilling is much slower on heavier, wetter soils in parts of Norfolk, he said.
“Crops are taking around 14 days to emerge and some of the early drilled areas are already coming up.”
But the mild start to the season has increased the potential threat from mildew and aphids, Dr Jaggard noted.
“We have already had a couple of days where it has been mild enough for aphids to fly – although none have been caught yet.
“Most crops have been treated with an insecticide, so this should take care of much of the threat,” he added.
It is important growers make timely nitrogen applications in order to get crops growing well, which will help protect against any pest attack, added Mr Walters.