22 May 1998

Be gentle, says BS

ROUGH handling of sugar beet is losing UK growers and British Sugar thousands of tonnes of sugar every year. To combat that British Sugar has launched an initiative to identify when and where losses occur and put an end to them.

Beet producers are falling at the final hurdle – getting the sugar from the field to factory, British Sugars head of research and development Mike Armstrong told a Hilleshog Golden Beet Club seminar near Norwich last week.

The drop from trailer to concrete pad alone could wipe 1000t of sugar from the national beet crop, due to bruising and leakage from cells, he estimates.

Lifting, passage through harvester turbines or rollers, and dropping into trailers and lorries may all add to damage, with losses exacerbated by storage, he adds.

An electronic beet developed by ADAS and calibrated by British Sugar is being used to measure the impacts and abrasions a root is subjected to. From this, sugar losses at each stage are calculated.

"The main problem is that losses due to bruising and rupturing of cells cannot be seen. This will allow us to demonstrate them," says Mr Armstrong.

Growers can reduce bruising by lowering elevator heights over trailers, clamps and lorries. But harvesters may be causing most damage, he admits. If that is the case, machinery manufacturers will be approached to try to improve design, he says.

Preliminary tests have already been carried out on some six-row machines.

Cutting sugar losses between field and factory must be an industry goal, urges BSs Mike Armstrong.