6 December 1996

Detect potential losses before they hit profits

By Andrew Blake

SUGAR beet growers are being offered the chance to avoid hidden storage losses by monitoring clamp temperatures with new equipment from a Lincs-based firm.

Sixty to 70% of sugar losses during storage are due to respiration, not freezing, says Peter Taylor of British Crop Development, Wellingore. The higher the temperature the greater the loss.

But unlike problems with frosted roots which may then thaw and risk being refused by factories, losses from respiring beet usually go undetected, says Mr Taylor. "Growers never see beet rejected because of overheating, but they may be losing money without knowing it.

"The optimum temperature for successful beet storage is 4C-6C. Certainly when you get over 10C you run into trouble. And research shows there are differences between 5C and 9C."

BCDs solution consists of a temperature probe sheathed in stainless steel linked by wire to a electronic hand-held splash-proof thermometer. The probe with its lead is fed down alkathene water pipe, positioned during loading, so that it rests mid-clamp – the hottest spot. A plug on the end of the lead fits onto the meter to allow measurements to be taken.

Further probes with leads long enough to reach convenient access points are available to avoid the hassle of relying on just one moved around various sampling points. "As a rule of thumb you need one probe for every 150t," says Mr Taylor.

Accurate measurements should be possible within half an hour of installation. By regular monitoring, growers can spot any heat build-up and arrange to deliver the warmest parts of the clamp first, he says. The meter, which is claimed to be accurate to within  1C, can remember and recall highest and lowest temperatures taken during any measuring session.

With no one clamp design suitable for all sites, growers can use the equipment to assess how good their own systems are, says Mr Taylor. It may also help with ventilation and frost protection decisions.

The meter with a single probe costs £195. Extra probes are about £30 each.

This temperature probe helps growers avoid costly sugar losses in clamp, says BCDs Peter Taylor (left). Farm manager Tony Wright agrees.