Farmer Focus: Highest root yields of the season

This “winter” hasn’t really been good for many sectors of farming. Having outwintered stock has been trying at times, but having relatively free-draining soils has meant we have still been able to get about and tend to the stock.

This has been in stark contrast to colleagues down in the South West who have been left a legacy that will take some time to get over.

One crop that has thrived for us in the mild, wet autumn and “winter” months has been sugar beet. Root and sugar yields have continued to increase as liftings progresses. This has also been helped by a robust fungicide programme undertaken last summer following advice from the BBRO.

Indeed, February-lifted beet gave us the highest sugar percentages and root yields of the season, which has helped the crop retain its position at the top of the league on both the Nottinghamshire and Royston farms.

What has also helped has been the £1.50 completion bonus for this season’s crop, the £1.75 late delivery bonuses for the February-lifted beet and the farm’s participation in British Sugar’s harvesting and haulage scheme. The scheme is worth an extra £2.30/t to us, which across the 15,000t we delivered to both Bury and Newark factories added another £33,000 to the crop’s bottom line.

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A further 25p/t reduction in the transport allowance for the 2014-15 beet, crop along with potential cuts if adverse currency movements persist, will only increase the value of the haulage scheme to growers. Certainly participation in the scheme for the 2014-15 crop looks an absolute no-brainer.

This time last year with buoyant cereal and rape prices, many growers were questioning the place of sugar beet in their rotations, but a year later all tonnage has been taken up and there is a waiting list for additional tonnage by existing growers.

Former Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year Robert Law farms 1,200ha on the Hertfordshire/Cambridgeshire/Essex borders growing cereals, peas, forage rape for seed and sugar beet. He also manages 500ha of Nottinghamshire sandland.