Use headlands to aid wildlife
BEET growers should leave compacted headlands uncropped and put it into set-aside to "green-up" the farm and enhance the countryside, says Mike May of IACR Brooms Barn.
"Headlands can account for 15-20% of a field and often yields from these compacted areas are only half those from the rest of the field," he says. "Insufficient beet can be harvested to cover input costs, so it would be far better to turn the lower-potential areas over to set-aside and enhance the environmental profile of the farm."
A joint project involving Brooms Barn, British Sugar, BBRO and the Farmed Environment Company, is comparing the value for wildlife and environment of different systems on compacted headlands.
"This involves various grass and wild-flower mixtures, including some with oxeye daisies, yarrow and knapweed, and natural regeneration," says Marek Nowakowski of the FEC. *
Possible cash saving
Beet growers are wasting at least £850,000 every year on unnecessary nitrogen, warns British Sugar.
"A recent survey reveals the average amount applied was 14kg/ha more than recommended for the individual circumstances," says the firms Mike Patchett.
"This is both a huge waste of money and a risk to sugar yield. While cereals and most other crops can convert excess N into yield, beet suffers if too much is applied as sugar contents and sugar yields decline."
Application timing is also important. Despite advice to put on a third of the recommended rate at drilling, with the rest at emergence, only 50% of the national crop gets any within a week of drilling, he notes.
TRAMLINES in sugar beet can boost profits by cutting seed costs and improving spraying efficiency and timeliness.
"The technique is rapidly gaining popularity, with around 20% of the UK crop now tramlined, compared with almost nothing five years ago," says British Sugars Ed Gilbert. "In some areas, particularly where contractors are widely used, it has reached 50%."
BBRO-funded research shows that on a 24m system seed cost is reduced by 4%, or £7/ha, with no corresponding yield loss. A faster work-rate is possible when spraying, some operators reporting a 50% rise. With a track width that matches cereals there is no down-time for changing wheels.
Wheelings also allow wide tyres to be used so these is less risk of rutting and compaction, and less damage to the crop leading to lower harvester losses. *
Line up to secure better profits
WITH one of the highest ever forecasts of powdery mildew on beet this year growers are being urged to spray to protect yield.
"The forecast says 64% of the 160,000ha of beet are threatened and with yield losses of 7-25%, a lot is at stake," warns British Sugars Simon Fisher.
"Last year 70% of the crop was sprayed despite a much lower disease threat. We hope even more will be treated this year." Typically there is more than a 7% yield boost from fungicide, he says. But there are physiological benefits to be had too. "There is a 6% yield increase even in the absence of disease."
BS says triazoles should not be applied if there is less than four weeks between treatment and harvest, as time is needed to achieve a pay-back. "As long as there is sufficient time crops in the south should be given a blanket treatment within 7-10 days of disease being spotted, otherwise the yield benefits could be lost. In the north growers should wait for warning cards before taking action."
Triazole costs range from £13/ha to £15/ha, giving a net return after treatment of £10-£65/ha. "The cost of not treating is often £50-£200/ha," says Mr Fisher.
• See p56 for more on beet fungicides. *
Maximising returns from
the sugar beet crop was
the theme of a British
Sugar/BBRO field day in
East Anglia last week.
Edward Long reports
BS issues powdery mildew warning to protect 2002 crop
Above left: Powdery mildew is set to be more severe than last year, warns BSs Simon Fisher. Above right: Tramlining beet saves seed, boosts spraying workrates and does not cut yield, says BSs Ed Gilbert. Left: headland beet rarely yields well, so replace it with wildlife-friendly set-aside, say FECs Marek Nowakowski (left) and Mike May of IACR Brooms Barn.