26 April 1996

Beet looking good

despite slow start

SUGAR beet sowing was all but done on schedule this season. And even though germination has been delayed by cold dry soils, prospects for the crop remain good, according to a British Sugar spokesman.

"Were happy that 99% was drilled within our target window of Mar 10 to Apr 10," says John Prince, BS commercial seed manager. Many sowings went into moisture, so although subsequent growing conditions have been less then ideal, most crops are ready to respond when temperatures rise, he suggests. "Some warm rain would, of course, be welcome."

Cold, dry springs are certainly preferred to cold wet ones when seed is much more vulnerable to attack by pests and diseases, he says.

"Bolting is probably our biggest concern at the moment." The risk in early March drillings, particularly of bolting-prone varieties, is probably quite high. But because the process is influenced by the total number of cold days in May as well as April, it is too soon to forecast the eventual outcome, he explains. "At the moment our model shows we are almost spot on the average."

Almost as worrying are potential ground water shortages after a dry summer, a relatively dry winter and the dry spring, says Mr Prince. But summer downpours can transform the picture – as in 1982 which produced a record crop.

Parts of Germany frequently go into the spring with a moisture deficit only for crops to be rescued by June/July thunderstorms, he notes.

"Two inches in May, June, July and August is all it needs." A kind May could see plants through to maximum leaf area fairly quickly to produce a "thumping great crop".

Gaucho (imidacloprid) seed treatment has undoubtedly slowed emergence in trials. "In these cold conditions it has probably delayed it by one and a half to two days." But the benefits of controlling soil pests and aphids far outweigh that, says Mr Prince. "Dont panic," is his advice. "There is nothing you can do about it."

Where Advantage seed priming has been used, early indications from Brooms Barn are that it has offset any delay caused by Gaucho, he adds. &#42


BEETPROSPECTS


&#8226 Sowing mostly on schedule.

&#8226 99% drilled within target window of Mar 10 – Apr 10.

&#8226 Prospects good despite germination delay.

&#8226 Bolting a concern, but May weather still has a role.

&#8226 Dry soils a worry, but later rain can rescue crops.

&#8226 Gaucho delayed emergence in trials by 1.5-2 days.

&#8226 Advantage seed priming looks to have offset such delay.