spraying sugar beet© Tim Scrivener

Two herbicide-tolerant sugar beet varieties have been entered into UK trials, offering growers a new herbicide to tackle troublesome weeds.

The varieties could be commercially available in time for the 2019-20 beet season.

Bred by KWS using standard breeding techniques, they have a natural tolerance to a specific ALS (acetolactate synthase) inhibitor herbicide and is being branded Conviso Smart.

See also: Herbicide-tolerant OSR beats weeds

“Conviso sugar beet will enable growers to control a wide range of weeds,” says Simon Witheford, KWS sugar beet product manager.

These include many otherwise hard to tackle species, with greater ease and without risking crop safety or yield potential.

“It is the result of many years of research and development that will benefit growers in much the same way as previous advances, such as rhizomania and nematode resistance. 

“It is exciting that we can provide a non-GM solution to weed control in sugar beet,” adds Mr Witheford.

The tolerance to ALS inhibitor herbicides is the result of a natural variation in the gene encoding the ALS enzyme. Once identified, this was then back-crossed into elite hybrid plants to produce high-yielding varieties suited to commercial cultivation.

“It was not forced by mutagens or mutagenic conditions and is not the result of GM breeding techniques.

New herbicide

Edward Hagues, Bayer’s root crop product manager, adds: “The herbicide has performed exceptionally in trials demonstrating reliable control of a wide range of broad-leaved and grassweeds, and effective control of weed beet populations.

“In addition, the new herbicide offers greater flexibility in application timing compared with standard herbicides and requires fewer passes to achieve control,” he says.

An application supporting the herbicide’s registration in sugar beet is currently being evaluated by regulators. The herbicide is both new to the UK and to sugar beet.

For the technology to be available to UK growers both the herbicide and varieties will need to gain registration through their respective regulatory bodies.

Herbicide-tolerant varieties are not new in the UK, with Clearfield oilseed rape, which is tolerant to the herbicide Cleranda (metazachlor + imazamox).