21 January 2000

All-in-one fertiliser policy boosts beet

By Andrew Swallow

SUBSTANTIAL sugar beet yield increases from a single fertiliser application may sound too good to be true. But that is what manufacturer Hydro is claiming for its specialist sugar beet fertiliser ProBeta NPK.

"In three years of trials across Europe it has given 5-9% sugar yield increases," says Hydro horticultural and sugar beet specialist Miles Harriman.

Nitrogen, potash and phosphate are combined with salt, magnesium, sulphur, boron and manganese to form an all-in-one sugar beet compound. It is already widely used in Scandinavia and has been trialed in the UK for two seasons.

By applying the nutrients just before drilling no P or K is lost to leaching and all nutrients are within the reach of seedlings. That seems to lead to a starter effect, helping the plant achieve more rapid early growth. Despite providing all the crops nitrogen in one hit no deleterious effect on germination has been observed, he adds.

While using the compound would typically cost growers £22/ha (£9/acre) more than ploughed down P and K plus broadcast ammonium nitrate, the yield benefits more than outweigh the add-itional cost, advises Mr Harriman.

However, British Sugars Mike Armstrong questions the practice of going for a single application. "On a light soil it is not the right advice to go away from a split fertiliser dressing. And what happens if we have a really wet spring?" he asks.

Such a fixed ratio product would also limit the ability of growers to match nutrient inputs to soil indices. "For a crop off-take approach it makes more sense," he adds.

Mr Harriman acknowledges the compound is not going to suit all growers soils. but is adamant that about half the UKs growers could benefit. "Obviously on the very light sands it is probably not applicable. The product is more suited to medium or heavier soil types." &#42

COMPLETE BEET COMPOUND?

&#8226 Multi-nutrient compound tailored to sugar beet.

&#8226 16:9:8 NPK + 8% Na, plus S, Mg, Mn and B.

&#8226 5-9% yield increases.

&#8226 One pass policy.

&#8226 Spreads to 24m.

BS nitrogen advice is still to split

British Sugar stands by its advice to split nitrogen applications roughly a third on the seed-bed and the remainder at the two leaf stage of the crop. Initial recommendations will be circulated based on February soil sampling to determine residual nitrogen levels, followed by an update based on a second round of sampling at drilling/emergence. "It is rare that we have to change the main recommendation," notes Mike Armstrong. In general growers are not applying too much nitrogen, he adds. "Any overuse tends to be on the more difficult sites to manage – those with high organic matter or where large amounts of organic manure are used."

Give young beet a boost with a new, tailored NPK compound, says Hydro. Yield benefits have emerged in European trials.