Sugar beet yields continue to increase faster than those of other crops with a consistent 2-3% improvement per year and now growers will benefit from a further improvement in breeding material.
The genetic battle against the threat of beet cyst nematode (BCN), for which there is now no permitted chemical control, is hotting-up and plant breeders appear to be winning against an old enemy. None more so than Syngenta, whose newly recommended variety, Sentinel, not only tolerates BCN and rhizomania but has virtually no yield penalty on uninfected sites. This compares with the first double-tolerant variety launched last year, which had a so-called “yield-drag” of nearly 10%.
“Tolerant varieties are naturally expected to give higher yields compared to ‘sensitive’ varieties when there is pest pressure,” explains Richard Powell, Syngenta’s UK crop manager for Hilleshog sugar beet. “However, introducing new, beneficial traits like this into a crop can often result in lower yield in the absence of the disease – the so-called ‘yield drag’. This is normally eliminated through further breeding work, as happened with rhizomania-tolerant varieties, where tolerant varieties have caught up with conventional varieties over the last 12 years. However, with Sentinel, we have already achieved this.
“Sentinel is also remarkable in having the best bolting resistance of any Rhizomania-tolerant variety available in the UK, so it is suitable for early drilling. In addition, with the new smoother Hilleshog root shape, it has the benefits of easier harvesting and reduced dirt tares.”
“The “double tolerant” (rhizomania + BCN) segment of the market for 2010 is barely a percent of the total market. But there has been extraordinary interest from growers across all beet growing areas to try the new varieties this spring. Demand for seed has far outstripped available supply. We would anticipate the market increasing by a factor of four or five for 2011.
“Nonetheless, we would recommend that growers, whose land remains uninfected with either rhizomania or BCN, do not turn their backs on conventional varieties as they still offer the best combination of yield, sugar content and low bolting.”
• Cereals 2010 exhibitor information as supplied by Syngenta Seeds