17 May 2002

Sugar beet havoc

By Tom Allen-Stevens

PATCHY sugar beet crops across East Anglia are playing havoc with growers herbicide programmes and forcing some to redrill part fields.

Dry, cool weather last month halted growth in patches leaving younger seedlings and unchitted seed open to pest attack. Meanwhile in other parts, often of the same field, crops grew away well and already have eight leaves.

Many growers are finding they are having to redrill patches that have established poorly, including Ray Mason, who farms near March in Cambs. "It was warm when we drilled first time round, but then it came cool and the crop just sat there."

Although it was Gaucho-treated (imidacloprid) Mr Mason lost 4ha (10 acres) of his 105ha (260-acre) crop to symphylids, millipedes and slugs. "Usually the crop will grow away from damage, but this year it didnt," he adds.

But at about 1500ha (3700 acres) nationally, the amount of crop redrilled is only a little above the annual average, says British Sugars John Prince.

"It is usually above 1000ha (2470 acres), so this year is no disaster story."

But even those who have not had to redrill are now rethinking their herbicide strategy, says IACR Brooms Barns Mike May.

"Those who did not get on top of their herbicide programme early on are holding back because of the fresh flush of beet seedlings now coming through."

His advice to growers is to tone down the herbicide mix and take a judgement on whether you can afford to lose a few plants.

"The first flush of growth will often give you enough crop cover to ignore the small ones and make sure of a good weed control.

"But it is probably best to opt for the safer treatments, like straight phenmedipham (as in Betanal Flo). You can come back in 5-7 days and hot that up when plants are stronger," he suggests.

For those with re-drilled patches treat them entirely separately, he adds.

Mr Mays comments are echoed by Shropshire-based agronomist Bryce Rham. Most crops in the west are doing well but late-emerging plants in patchy fields will have to take their chances, he says.

"You have got to control those weeds – you will find that beet is more resistant than people give it credit."

He reports excellent results with Betanal Carrera, Aventiss new desmedipham/phenmedi-pham formulation, in the dry, cool conditions this year.

Norfolk-based AICC agronomist Pat Turnbull says there has been little recent re-drilling, although much was done earlier on, due to capping after early drilling.

"The early beet is fairly clean, but later-drilled crops have a lot of cleavers, red shank and black bindweed that is getting worryingly big. &#42

Debut (triflusulfuron-methyl) is a great help in these situations."

NOT SO NEAT BEET

&#8226 Part fields re-drilled.

&#8226 Weed control main priority.

&#8226 Tone down herbicide mixes.

&#8226 Follow-up in 5-7 days.

Here we go again…like many sugar beet growers this spring, Norfolk-based Ray Mason is grappling with patchy emergence and uneven crops.

&#8226 Part fields redrilled.

&#8226 Weed control main priority.

&#8226 Tone down herbicide mixes.

&#8226 Follow-up in 5-7 days.