Drought work is top priority
DROUGHT tolerance research is taking precedence over irrigation work at IACR-Brooms Barn as researchers react to the changing climate.
"We have taken the view that irrigation is not going to be an option for sugar beet in the future," says senior liaison officer Mike May.
Many lines of sugar beet and related species from around the world are being evaluated for drought tolerance at the Suffolk experimental station. If tolerance is identified it is hoped to label the genes responsible, and introduce the tolerance into commercial varieties.
"That could be done through conventional breeding," he says.
Other agronomic techniques to cope with drought stress, such as treatments to alter the crops root habit, are also being investigated.
With a 0.9C (1.6F) increase in average temperatures at Brooms Barn in the past 30 years, and more erratic rainfall, Mr May is convinced that global warming is fact.
"Growers must start to think how they will cope with the more volatile conditions," he says. *