18 August 1995

Beet under plastic set for higher yield

SUGAR beet drilled under plastic is proving its worth.

The technique is being tried for the first time this season at Dennis Westons Willoughby Farms near Alford, Lincs, after success with 4ha (10 acres) of maize drilled under plastic last year.

The forage crop yielded 50t/ha (20t/acre), 30% above a conventionally drilled crop. It was also harvested two weeks earlier, says Aubourn Farming managing director Philip Wynn.

Company agronomist Bridget Carroll expects the 1.2ha (3 acres) of sugar beet to yield 15% more and be 10-14 days earlier than the rest of the crop, if Danish results are anything to go by.

Controlling pests and weeds under plastic are the only problems, she says. Gamma-HCH and slug pellets are needed to curb leatherjackets and slugs on the heavy soils and care is needed to stop weeds getting away. "Usually you need to use more pre-emergence spray or choose a non-weedy site." But oilseed rape sprayed in the maize has succumbed to post-emergence atrazine and oil despite a good covering of plastic at the time. "The plastic is quite permeable. If it worked in the maize there is every chance it could work in the beet," she says. &#42

Sugar beet established quicker under plastic, says Aubourn Farmings Bridgett Carroll.