THE MAJORITY of UK Beet production in five years’ time will come from growers capable of producing in excess of 70 adjusted tonnes a hectare.

British Sugar’s Karl Carter made the prediction at this week’s Beet UK event near Lincoln (19 October).

Mr Carter announced a new initiative, the UK Beet yield challenge, which follows in the footsteps of the company’s 20’20 vision programme. He said yield was the most important factor for the future of the UK Beet industry.

“Clearly we need to continue managing costs, but yield is key,” he said.

Already 25% of growers in 2004 were achieving the challenge target but the average was just 58 tonnes a hectare.

Every grower on every soil type could achieve 70 tonnes, Mr Carter believed. “We have looked at every post code and it is workable. Some growers are achieving 100 tonnes a hectare.”

Growers, advisers and seed companies would need to concentrate on three key areas where there was good reason for optimism, he said.

“Biologically beet is at the start of its genetics, where as cane is towards the end. There is more potential for beet.

“Agronomically [independent plant science company] NIAB’s three-year trials have produced a 90t/ha average adjusted yield.

“And with 25% of growers already producing in excess of 70t/ha it proves there is scope for recovery efficiencies.”

Mr Carter also indicated there would need to be more flexibility with contracts in the future. “When we know what reform looks like, we will need to have a one-off out-goers’ scheme which will move contracts around and then we need to look at more flexibility going forward.”

For the latest expert opinion on limiting crop storage losses, see this week’s FARMERS WEEKLY magazine (21 October 2005).