13 October 1995

Store early liftings at your peril, BStells beet growers

SUGAR beet growers must avoid storing early-lifted beet, says British Sugar. The combination of lower root yield and high in-store sugar losses slashes profits and could affect some individual contract tonnages next season, it warns (Business, 6 Oct).

"Just-in-time harvesting" is the key, says business development manager Peter Williams. "Growers must aim to minimise the time between lifting and delivering their beet in the first half of the season."

Both yield and sugar content suffer, he says. "In October and early November the crop is actively growing. It makes sense to leave it in the ground if there are no scheduled deliveries." In just one week, crops can increase yield by 5%, he explains.

Unseen losses in store also eat into profits. "Sugar losses are high at this time. Warm autumn temperatures lead to increased respiration in store and this uses sugar." At 17C, the loss is double that at 10C.

Its an expensive combination, says Mr Williams. On average, growers will lose £117/ha (£47.35/acre) at this seasons contract price if they store beet for a week in early October compared with lifting it just before delivery.

Even a month later they still stand to lose £70/ha (£28.30). "If the weather stays warm then losses will be greater," he advises.

Lost yield could also jeopardise next seasons contract tonnage, warns agricultural director Chris Carter. He suggests up to half of growers could fail to meet their individual contracts this campaign.

Drought and high temperatures mean "extreme yield variability" across the country. "Many growers are reporting poor crops. Following these guidelines will help maximise delivered yields. Growers need to look after every tonne they lift."

Mr Williams reckons growers should aim to store beet no more than an average of three days in early season.

Growers should also avoid being pressurised by contractors wanting to lift large areas at one time in early season, unless this matches delivery schedules, says Mr Williams.

&#8226 Aim to lift stressed crops first, advise BS. Healthy crops are better able to add yield and should therefore be left in the ground as long as possible.