26 September 1997

Good quality beet in first four days, says British Sugar

SUGAR beet factories reported good delivery quality in the first four days of the campaign.

Some soils are drying and care will be needed to avoid root breakage and damage, warns British Sugar. "Beet are lifting well and coming out clean," says commercial manager Peter Williams. "Its too early to predict yields, but we are looking at a potentially good crop."

Sugar content is variable, ranging from 16-17.5%, though that is nothing out of the ordinary for this time of year, he adds. "It largely depends on soil type and the amount of moisture."

The start of the campaign has been relatively trouble-free, with no major breakdowns reported by the start of this week. "We are currently working with about two to two-and-a-half days supply on farm, about where we would like to see it," says Mr Williams.

Some growers in parts of Norfolk and Suffolk are finding beet hard to lift as soils dry further. "Growers should look carefully at machine settings to make sure they are lifting roots without breaking them." Turbine speeds could be reduced to cut damage where little cleaning is needed.

Headlands of Zulu beet were lifted last Saturday at Greetwell Hall near Lincoln. Good-sized roots pushed yields to an estimated 50t/ha (20t/acre), 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) up on last years early liftings and close to the overall average for that season, says Joe Ward.

A hard days work saw two six-row machines clear 19.5ha (48 acres) of Saxon at Rudham Grange, near Kings Lynn in Norfolk last weekend.

Sandy loam with flints

Soils were dry, but the sandy loam with flints rarely causes root breakage, notes farmer James Ringer. "These soils are not heavy enough to go tight. Beet came out pretty well. Its difficult to estimate yield, though roots are a fairly decent size. We have had them like parsnips in this field before."

Both growers are happy with BSs decision to open factories up to three weeks earlier than last year – the company estimates that about 10% of the crop will lifted in that extra time.