28 June 2002

First 100t/ha average farm output is near

By Charles Abel

UK beet crops are on track to produce record yields, with some units now within reach of 100t/ha average farm output.

Good establishment and fav-ourable growing conditions mean the crop is set to produce hefty yields, says Simon Fisher of British Sugar. "Good subsoils and headlands mean we have complete fields of beet, which is nice."

The first 100t/ha average farm output is near, he adds. "There are growers who have averaged 75t/ha over the whole farm for the past five years, including last year and the best growers will soon be averaging 100t/ha across the whole farm. Those are the growers we are looking for."

Results from last years survey of 300 producers show that while growing costs vary little, returns from the crop differ massively, in line with crop output. Some growers can extract far more output for a similar cost, says Mr Fisher.

The top 10% of growers achiev-ed an average output of £1834/ha, whereas average growers achieved almost £400/ha less. With variable and operational costs broadly similar enterprise margins varied by a similar amount in the survey.

For the bottom 10% of growers the picture is worse still. They spent much the same, but achieved almost £700/ha less output, leaving an enterprise margin of £127/ha, more than six times less than the top 10% producers.

"The variation in performance was more extreme last year due to the difficult season," says Mr Fisher. "But it does show what is possible."

This years high performing crops should move the industry towards British Sugars 20:20 vision of 20% more yield and 20% less cost. Last years outgoers scheme will have accelerated the trend, outgoers typically achieving 5t/ha less yield than continuing growers, says Mr Fisher.

"Without a doubt, we will have an improvement in industry performance this year, provided the season continues OK."

Average costs conceal big variations, with fertilisers varying from nothing to £200/ha, mainly according to manure use. Fungicide use is up 40%, reflecting worthwhile yield benefits. &#42

Sugar beet (£/ha)

Top Ave Bottom

10% 10%

Output 1,834 1,478 1,104

Var costs 367 361 389

Op costs 545 527 488

Entps margin 821 459 127

Beet variable costs

Var cost spending (£/ha)

1999 2000 2001

Seed 99 98 99

Fertiliser 89 90 91

Herbicide 116 105 101

Insecticide 36 40 40

Fungicide 7.75 6.84 10.86