15 September 1995

Beet is smaller but

sweeter

SUGAR beet roots are smaller than at this time last year, but they are much sweeter. The key question for growers and British Sugar is how recent rains will change that picture.

Much depends on whether crops were irrigated during the long, dry spell – and how well the job was done.

Trial digs by BS as the weather broke put mean root weight at 466g. That is 62g lighter than last year. But sugar content at 18.36% is well up on the equivalent 16.65%, leaving average sugar a root at 86g only slightly down on last season.

However compared with the five-year mean the crop remains light at this stage. Average root weight at the same time over that period was 575g with a sugar content of 17.25%.

Factory gates are unlikely to open as early as the mid-September of 1994, according to British Sugar. Decisions were expected this week.

While recent rain has helped, more is needed to restore the potential shown by the crop before the drought, says a spokesman.

Eastern barometer grower Robin Baines managed to irrigate nearly half the 350ha (867 acres) of beet he grows on sand over gravel around Wroxham Home Farms, Norfolk. With adequate moisture there is a good crop, but drought-hit fields, which are only just recovering (below right), are bound to suffer yield loss. Nevertheless he still expects to make quota.