19 August 1997

Early lifts indicate sugar beet harvest could be best ever

By Robert Harris

A RECORD sugar beet crop is on the cards judging by initial liftings destined for first factory openings yesterday (Thursday).

But growers are being warned to plan harvest schedules and clamp carefully to minimise losses and ease subsequent management.

With 63ha (157 acres) taken so far at Loose Hall, Hitcham, near Ipswich, Don Morley reports at least 60t/ha (24.3t/acre) of sugar adjusted yield, 4.5t/ha (1.8t/acre) more than last years output.

That bears out earlier industry forecasts of high national yields.

"We started lifting with our six-row Matrot last Friday and now have about 550t on our concrete pad," says Mr Morley. "On the evidence so far we seem to have a record crop on our hands. The roots are large for the time of the season and there are lots of them."

At B W Durrant & Sons Foxes Farm, Battisford, Suffolk, John Durrant predicts an exceptional crop. "Yield is as heavy at this time of the year as I can remember. Root size is very good despite some mildew infection."

He reckons output could be 3-4t/ha up on last years 61.3t/ha adjusted yield. "That would be getting close to a record."

Soils are reasonably dry, giving a clean lift but little root breakage. Quality should be good. "I would guess sugars should be at least 18%, similar to last year."

Mr Morleys start date is two weeks earlier than last year when late factory opening delayed progress. "A lot of beet lost sugar in clamps after Christmas and we were still delivering right up to the end of February.

Mike May of IACR-Brooms Barn agrees crops look set to produce high yields this season. But whatever the output, early lifters should operate just in time harvesting to avoid sugar losses in clamp, he advises.

"Temperatures in September and early October can be high, and unless clamps are managed correctly, sugar loss can be large."

Overheating, which is exacerbated by excess dirt, bruising or trash, can lose up to £60 a week for each 45t of beet which is the UK average yield a ha. Minimising the delay between harvest and delivery, careful lifting and good clamping to allow maximum airflow will greatly reduce that figure, he explains.

Beet from poorly growingfields should be first to be lifted, he adds. "Sugar content follows a straight percentage increase. The better the crop is now, the better the final yield will be. Crops that are growing well should be left ifpossible."

Fields infested by weed beet should also be considered for early lifting. Growers should leave the soil surface undisturbed for at least three weeks to allow birds and mice to feed on seed. "They can have quite an effect over that time."

BEET PROSPECTS

&#8226 High yields likely.

&#8226 Just in time harvesting and careful clamping to cut sugar losses.

&#8226 Lift poorer fields first.

&#8226 Lift fields containing weed

beet early to maximise seed reduction.