Sugar contents are some consolation for difficult beet season

High sugar contents could be the only consolation for sugar beet growers after a difficult season left many disappointed with yields .

As the 2007 campaign draws to a close, latest figures from British Sugar show that sugar contents have held up well throughout, resulting in a season average of close to 18%, BS’s Robin Limb said on Thursday (17 January).

“The five-year average is 17.4% – it doesn’t sound like a huge difference, but it makes a big difference to the adjusted tonnage for the grower.”

The average adjusted yield this season was likely to be around 57t/ha, which was close to the five-year average – not a bad result considering the problems caused by the dry April and exceptionally wet summer, he said.

But he acknowledged that average masked a huge variation. “We’ve seen crops come in anywhere between 25 and 85t/ha. Generally those lifted later have performed better though.

“There’s no doubt growers who suffered poor establishment and waterlogging had a poor year, but it’s not everywhere. Western parts of East Anglia and parts of Lincolnshire, Notts and South Yorkshire that escaped the heaviest summer rain fared better.”

Quality had generally been excellent, Mr Limb said. Crown tares were down slightly at 8.9%, dirt tares were low at 5.1% and amino nitrogen content was almost at a record low at 60mg per 100g sugar. “There have been very few problems with root rot,” he added.

Around 15% of the crop was yet to be delivered to factories and about half of this was still in the ground, he said. “There’s some wet ground about after this week’s rain, but I don’t expect any to be lost due to waterlogging.”

Mr Limb urged growers who had been disappointed with the crop this year to “keep the faith”. “Sugar beet’s up against a lot of stiff competition, but if things come together well, next year could be a super season. The agronomics stack up well, and so do the economics, particularly as we’ll [BS] guarantee the full contract price for all beet grown and delivered next season.”

The future of beet growing is likely to be a hot topic at Beet 08, which is being held at the new EXEC conference facility at the East of England Showground, Peterborough on 6 February. Attendance is free. For booking enquiries call 0870 2402314.

2007 beet campaign:

  • Yields hit by dry spring and wet summer, but close to five-year average
  • Later-lifted crops performing better
  • Sugar contents above average
  • Quality excellent
  • 15% still to be delivered (about half still in ground)
  • Factories to close end Jan/ early Feb – dates to be announced shortly

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