Warmer soils needed before beet drilling

Cold weather means many soils are still not warm enough for successful sugar beet germination and growers should wait for conditions to improve, says British Sugar.

“At the moment very little has been drilled,” said BS’s Robin Limb. “Soils are dry enough in many cases, but are too cold to allow germination, so there’s no point putting beet in the ground.”

Growers should wait until soil temperatures exceed 3C before drilling, he advised. “It doesn’t look like this will be until the end of next week, but as soon as conditions improve, growers should take the earliest opportunity to drill and complete the process rapidly.”

While later drilling could potentially lead to less well developed crops by the summer months (potentially reducing light interception and yields), Mr Limb believes there is still time to get crops in and maximise yields – weather permitting.

Applying nitrogen before the crop has fully emerged will be critical to getting it off to a good start, he continued.

“Most growers are getting the rates correct, but many are missing the optimum window – i.e. they’re applying N too late. The recommendation is that all N should be applied before the crop’s emerged.”

Rates should not exceed 120kg N/ha (assuming very low residual soil N), even for higher yielding crops, he added. Where soils have higher organic matter or residual nitrogen, rates may need to be reduced accordingly, he said.

Practical advice on beet establishment can be found in the Growers Guide, available at www.uksugarbeet.co.uk