7 June 1996

Best selection ever on NIABs new seed list

Sugar beet seed order decisions for 1997 will have to be made soon.

Edward Long assesses the main options

WITH the addition of two new varieties to the National Institute of Agricultural Botanys recommended list growers have 16 to choose from for next season.

Last years crop was dominated by four Hilleshog varieties, Aztec, Druid, Saxon and Zulu, which took over 80% of the UK market. The two new ones are from different breeders and have good agronomic and yield characteristics. The four popular varieties are expected to again be the mainstay of the UK crop in 1997, albeit with a reduced market share.

The two new ones are KWS-bred Alexa from English Sugar Beet, and Madison from Danisco. NIAB decisions on five other candidates for listing, Camelot, Camilla, Centurion, Javelin and Tonic, were deferred pending more evidence to support their claims for recommendation.

"This was the largest number of deferrals for some time, probably a reflection of the closeness of modern varieties," says NIABs sugar beet specialist Tom Dixon. "Breeders have been so successful in recent years that the performance difference between the best and worst on the recommended list is becoming more narrow as overall standards continue to rise. Breeders now seem to be fine-tuning already good varieties, but there is still a trend to better sugar yields."

Alexa has given above average sugar yields and growers income coupled with average sugar contents and juice purity. Its performance has improved over the past three years of official trialing. Establishment is below average, but it has good resistance to powdery mildew.

The Danish-bred Madison, described by Mr Dixon as a "high flier", has a consistently reliable performance and seems the most improved of all recent recommendations. It has given significantly above average sugar yields and growers income coupled with above average sugar content and juice purity. It has good field establishment and is a low bolting type.

"With the addition of these two varieties growers now have the best ever selection on offer," he says. "But the cold weather this spring highlights the need to select varieties for their ability to emerge and establish quickly, and to cope with late frosts without excessive bolting. Only then should sugar yield be a factor in the decision making process." &#42

Lifting NIABtrials prior to yield and quality assessments by mobile tare house. The trend is still to better sugar output, says root crop specialist Tom Dixon. Promising rhizomania resistant varieties are not far away.