5 April 2002

Beet drilling is back on course

IN marked contrast to 2001, at least 80% of the UKs sugar beet crop was drilled by the end of last weekend, British Sugar estimates.

Only 2% of the crop was in the ground by the end of March last year. "We are back on course, and its more like an average year," says a spokesman.

Despite its problems last seasons late sown campaign delivered an estimated 1.21m tonnes of sugar. That compares with the record 1.59m tonnes in 1997/98, he notes.

"There was very little destroyed in the end. But there is no doubt that the crop does better if drilled early." New more bolting-resistant varieties have helped, he adds.

"The optimum window is now Mar 10-Apr 10. Five years ago, most growers wouldnt really start much before Mar 20."

Negotiations with the NFU on whether contract shortfalls from the last campaign will count towards future contracts are continuing. &#42