Results from small plot and commercial field trials carried out in 2008 have shown that XBeet consistently exceeds the current commercial standard, Advantage, says Richard Nicholls, agricultural business manager with British Sugar.
Eleven of the trial locations taken to full yield analysis after harvest showed a 3% final adjusted tonne yield benefit, he reports.
“This better yield performance was due to the faster speed of germination and emergence,” he says. “On average, XBeet reached 50% field emergence five days ahead of Advantage seed.”
This can be explained by the fact that XBeet requires less heat, or accumulated day degrees, to emerge compared with Advantage, he adds.
But another benefit of XBeet was also seen in 26 of the 27 locations. The final stand establishment was improved, with XBeet giving a 9.9% improvement in final populations.
“The drilling dates ranged from 3 March to 22 April,” says Mr Nicholls. “The earliest drilled group, 3-13 March, all reported problems with waterlogging and cold soils, but they also saw the greatest final population benefit from XBeet.
“It seems that the difficult seed-beds get the best results – so with early drilling in particular the crop gets the head start that it needs.”
Last year was a tough test for the technology, continues Mr Nicholls. “We had a dry and sunny February, but then winter arrived in March. The Easter weekend was spoiled by wintry showers and many sugar beet crops struggled to emerge.
“What became clear from the trials was that XBeet had played a role in getting more viable plants to survive the difficult conditions.”
The varieties in the British Sugar trials were Goya and Trinita, but growers were offered XBeet on 11 out 22 varieties for 2009 planting at a premium of £3.09 over Advantage primed seed.
“We only had enough to offer this improvement on 40% of the 2009 crop,” confirms Nr Nicholls. “But Germain’s is investing in the facilities to be able to supply XBeet for the whole crop in 2010.”