XBeet, the new sugar beet seed priming treatment, will be available on 11 sugar beet varieties for next season, British Sugar said at a BBRO open day in Norfolk. That should account for one-third of the UK crop.

Growers could expect to see a speed of emergence and plant population difference with the treatment, suggested the firm’s Ed Burks, despite a lack of UK trials data to support the claims.

“We’re looking at it in field scale trials at 28 sites this year,” he said. “USA data shows a 2-3% yield benefit over the standard Advantage treatment and our experience to date doesn’t give us any reason to doubt this.”

Of these 28 farm sites, four or five had significantly more plants after three weeks, he said. “On one farm, where there was a particular problem with capping and slumping, there were 45% more plants in the XBeet section. But that was the most extreme and not a typical scenario.”

In more normal conditions, growers could expect to see faster, more even establishment than they did with Advantage-primed seed. “We will have to wait and see if that translates into higher yields. But we expect that it will and have every confidence in the American studies.”

Extreme weather events were responsible for the failure of last year’s UK trials with the new priming treatment. “This year, a lot of seed went into less than perfect seed-beds and sat for a while. So it’s a good test of what XBeet can do.”

XBeet would cost an additional £3.09 over Advantage, he said.

But Mike May of Broom’s Barn urged caution and advised growers to wait for this year’s trials results before committing to the treatment.

“By all means try it out on part of the farm,” he said. “But don’t assume that you will get the same results as they have in other parts of the world. Climate, soil conditions and seed quality are all different here, so the effects may not be as marked.”