Sugar beet bolting could be more troublesome than usual this season following the cold wet May, warns Elsoms’ sugar beet seed director Tony Guthrie.

 

Mr Guthrie took over the firm’s beet programme when Advanta sold its sugar beet business to French breeder Florimond Deprez for whom Elsoms is UK distributor.

 

The move, giving Elsoms the lion’s share of rhizomania-resistant varieties, with Bobcat, Harry, Mars and newcomer Zanzibar, effectively saw its UK market penetration leap from 2-3% in 2005 to about 20% this season.

 

Now all North-West European field bolter trials for varieties from SES van der Have and Strube-Dieckmann are conducted by Elsoms at two UK sites, with 1600 potential varieties under test at Spalding.

 

To encourage bolting and allow more resistant strains to be selected, sowing on the light easily worked soil was on 24 Feb.

 

By early June plants in some plots were already budding up.

 

“I’ve never seen bolting this early,” says Mr Guthrie. “We wouldn’t normally expect to see anything until the end of June or early July.”

 

Side bolters, which tend to appear later in the season, were also clearly in evidence.

 

Bolting resistance, until recently poor in rhizo-resistant varieties, is becoming increasingly important as earlier drilling to meet British Sugar’s drive for higher yields is advocated, explains Mr Guthrie.