25 August 1995

Take more care and cut beet field losses

BETTER harvesting and storage is vital to maintain and improve the UKs good efficiency record in the sugar beet sector.

British Sugar sees harvest and storage as a big concern. Field losses are typically 5.2t/ha, explains Mike Armstrong, head of research and development at Holmewood Hall. "Each year 9% of the national crop stays in the field. We need to get that down," he says. Better machine setting and operation would cut these losses to 2t/ha. Consequently British Sugar fieldsmen will be out checking crops this harvest to assess losses and advise on machine settings.

Sugar losses from damaged beet also need to be cut. "Sugar beet is a very, very fragile vegetable, just like potatoes or carrots. But you cant see the sugar you are losing. You should handle the crop much more like potatoes," urges Mr Armstrong. He suggests operating turbines as slowly as possible and reducing drop heights.

"An 8ft drop on to other beet loses 0.05% sugar. A 16ft drop loses 0.1%. That is 1400t nationally. The same drops on to concrete or the trailer bottom lose 4000t of sugar. It simply oozes away."

Clamping also needs attention. Overheating and water-logging are the new concerns. Keep width below 10m and height under 2.5m with a slightly domed top to shed water, and avoid frosting. Stack bale walls on pallets to improve ventilation and drain excess water. "We kept 1000t for 80 days through sharp frosts like this."

Keeping temperatures down in mild conditions is equally important. "The target should be 10C or less. Anything higher and sugar losses soar." Keep rubbish out and dont smash roots at loading, he adds. And remove covers when cold has passed. "Leaving them on will result in the highest losses of all."

Mr Armstrong also advises growers not to store crops with fusarium rots, like violet root rot. Infection will spread and can lead to rejection. Arrange for immediate delivery, he comments. &#42