The British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) has outlined its future strategy based on quality, targeted research and knowledge transfer. Adam Clarke reports from a recent open day in Norfolk
The British sugar industry is aiming to continue the impressive yield increases that growers have achieved in recent years, with the BBRO committed to providing quality information for growers as the springboard.
Its 4×4 initiative is committed to increasing yields for all growers by an average of 4% for each of the next four years, said Colin McEwan, head of the BBRO.
“The key to the 4×4 initiative is continuing to get good-quality and up-to-date information to our growers, backed up by our independent trials programme.”
Speaking at the Wissington factory open day at a sunny Top Farm, Holbeach Hurn, Lincolnshire, Mr McEwan pointed out that individual farmers have specific needs.
“There are many variables across the sugar beet area, such as soil types, so we need to provide bespoke strategies that can assist each grower to achieve their maximum yield potential.
“We also need to ensure that the information we provide is commercially relevant, which subsequently gives the levy-payers value for money,” he said.
Knowledge transfer is a vital part of BBRO’s role and Mr McEwan aims not only to develop the skills of his research team, but also to develop inter-personal skills to bridge the gap between science and growers in a commercial situation.
“We need to develop strong relationships within the industry, encourage grower groups and engage with the younger generation.
“There are still a number of growers that are not doing the basics correctly, and we need to reach out to these growers and support them in raising the bar when striving for yield and attention to detail.”
With EU sugar regime change imminent, there is further emphasis on future strategy. “The changes are something that are out of our control, but we can ensure that the industry is as competitive as possible by adopting the latest science and technology and best practice,” Mr McEwan explained.
BBRO and British Sugar are taking on board some lessons from a similar Spanish initiative, which aims to increase sugar beet yields in the north of the country to 120t/ha by 2014, said Paul Bee of British Sugar. “The yield in Spain was 105t/ha in 2011, so they are well on the way to achieving this.
“The Spanish are helping growers through a combination of benchmarking and advice. Their initiative (Plan 2014) is underpinned by a system that allows growers to record their beet growing actions and then produces a report that focuses on specific improvements that a grower can make.
“There are good parallels and we are hoping to adopt some of the elements in the 4×4 initiative, especially the individual advice for growers.”
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