8 October 1999

Beet harvest on target but sugar content low

By Louise Impey

LOW sugar contents are dogging the first beet liftings this season, prompting British Sugar to urge growers not to harvest crops too far ahead.

By last weekend (Oct 2), 4% of the national sugar beet crop had been delivered, with a further 3% in store on farm, reports British Sugars operations support manager Robin Limb.

"The situation is exactly the same as it was this time last year, with 93% of the UK crop still growing," he confirms. "Producers are following our recommendations not to harvest too quickly, so sugar contents dont suffer."

To date, average sugar contents are down on last season at 16.56%, compared with 17.41% in 1998. But root weights are 14% higher. "We anticipate sugar contents will rise as harvest progresses," points out Mr Limb. "The excessive amount of rain weve had in the last month means roots became swollen, which has had a dilution effect."

Higher root weights and good beet purity will compensate for any loss in sugar content, he notes. "Beet purity is very good, with amino N at 113. Last year it was much higher at 125."

Dirt tares are up slightly at 5.75%, a result of wet lifting conditions. "Harvesting has been difficult for some growers, and we do need it to be a bit drier. But overall there are no concerns and everything is on course. Were anticipating the same yields as last year."

With the exception of Kidderminster, which is due to open this week, all of the other eight factories were in operation last week.

Oakham-based sugar beet consultant Angus Kennedy agrees that harvest is proceeding well and total yields are exceptionally good. "The crops were well-established and with frequent rainfall throughout the growing season, not much droughting occurred. But sugar contents are lower than normal so growers are harvesting as little as they need."

Wet conditions and unseasonably high temperatures have added to the slow start, he believes. "The crop is still growing and growers dont want to make any more of a mess than they have to." The wettest soils are the alluvial silts around Spalding and Kings Lynn.

&#8226 ADAS urges growers to minimise holding time between lifting and delivery to keep sugar levels up. Compacted soils with poor crops should also be harvested first to minimise further compaction damage, it adds.

BEET PROGRESS (Oct 2)

* 4% delivered.

* 3% lifted + on farm.

* 93% to do, as 1998.

* Sugars down to 16.56%.

* Dirt tare up to 5.75%.

* Amino-N well down.

* Compacted crops first.

BEET PROGRESS (OCT 2)

&#8226 4% delivered.

&#8226 3% lifted + on farm.

&#8226 93% to do, as 1998.

&#8226 Sugars down to 16.56%.

&#8226 Dirt tare up to 5.75%.

&#8226 Amino-N well down.

&#8226 Compacted crops first.