21 March 1997

20% of beet is drilled

A FIFTH of the sugar beet crop had been drilled by the start of this week.

That is ahead of schedule, says British Sugar agricultural director Chris Carter. "Over the last three years, four, one and 3% had been drilled at this time respectively." A good frost tilth, moisture at the end of last month and dry weather since is producing good seed-beds.

"Weve seen quite a bit of variation across the country, reflecting weather and ground conditions." The western regions and Cantley had drilled about 3%. Most other areas were at about 20-25%, but at Ipswich half the fields had been sown. "If the weather stays like this we could have another 20% in the ground by the end of this week."

Although early-drilled crops are more likely to run into cold weather, improvements in seed technology reduce the risk of delayed germination and plant loss, Mr Carter maintains.

&#8226 Last season saw a record sugar beet crop – but only just, says Mr Carter. "Just over 1.476m tonnes of sugar was produced, about 1000t more than in 1992."

That would have taken over 10m adjusted tonnes of beet. "Its remarkable considering the summer drought which was followed in the winter by the most sustained spell of cold weather since 1987."