How host made sure event will see decent crop

5 October 2001

How host made sure event will see decent crop

Beet UKs host farmer feared

his late-sown sugar beet

would struggle to produce a

respectable crop in time for

the event. Here, Peter Read

reports on the husbandry

package that means demo

harvesters will have plenty

to go at on the day

GEOFF Hippersons grandfather started growing beet at Melrose Farm 75 years ago, and it remains the cornerstone of Mr Hippersons business. But he has never known drilling conditions like those he faced this spring.

"The torrential rain meant the 200 acres of trial plots were waterlogged. We didnt start drilling them until April 2, finishing on April 17. We normally try to start drilling on March 10."

But even that was lucky. "Heavy rain delayed the sowing of my 150 acres of non-trial beet, which eventually went in between May 1 and 5, which is exceptionally late."

After such a late start, it is only thanks to high summer rainfall that there will be a crop to lift at Beet UK, which takes place on Wed, Oct 17. "The rain saved us from disaster. Our average annual rainfall is 600-625mm, but by September 7 this year we had already had 565mm. I was worried we were going to get a late spring drought and there would not be a crop for the event. As it is, I am extremely pleased – and relieved – with how the crop is looking."

The demo crop consists of six varieties – Roberta, Stallion, Wildcat, Humber, Baron and Jessica.

Melrose Farm is on medium to heavy loam over chalk. Beet is part of a three-year beet, wheat, wheat/barley rotation or a four-year rotation with potatoes between the cereals.

Dalgety Arables Jerry Darby has looked after Melrose Farms agronomy for 12 years. "I believe in acceptable weed control at least cost; there isnt any money in unnecessary control and it is not a beauty contest," he says.

Did the plots get special treatment? "There were two extras to our normal programme – Advantage seed treatment, in addition to our normal Gaucho (imidacloprid), and the fungicide Punch C (carbendazim + flusilazole) applied in early August.

"Punch C is expensive, so normally only the late lifted beet receive it. Early lifted beet receive straight Sulphur, while mid-lifted beet get a reduced rate broad spectrum fungicide plus Sulphur. But this year we were determined to maximise the yield of this late drilled crop. We decided to leave a large strip fungicide untreated. It is now showing as a yellow rectangle of crop!"

This year the ground was too wet for the mounted 12m (39ft) or trailed 24m (78ft) sprayers. "Spraying had to be carried out by a garden tractor and a trailed 12m sprayer," says Mr Hipperson.

Precision economy

Manganese was added to the second post-em spray, followed by boron and then magnesium, which was applied on the full crop canopy. "We believe in attention to detail. Micronutrition is important and should not be overlooked."

Nitrogen was applied immediately after drilling (41.5kg/ha) and at four true leaf stage (83.5kg/ha). "Very little farmyard manure is applied to our beet land," says Mr Hipperson.

The total cost of the pre-em and two post-em sprays ranged from £66/ha to £85/ha and where thistles were also treated from £125/ha to £144/ha. Fungicides cost £15/ha and micronutrients £6.50/ha. "We feel we are honing spray cost down to a minimum," says Mr Darby.

Does Mr Hipperson think organic beet is viable? "Im not impressed with the organic trial plot. It is a wilderness, a forest of weeds, and it shows that without sprays the crop is a disaster." &#42

At one stage the demo crop was in serious doubt, says host farmer Geoff Hipperson. Kind weather and focused agronomy means there will be plenty for harvesters to (insert) tackle at Beet UKon Wed, Oct 17.


When: Wed, 17 October.

Where: A C Hipperson & Sons, Melrose Farm, Shouldham, Kings Lynn, Norfolk.

Directions: Off A1122 between Downham Market and Swaffham. Major roadworks on A10 mean diversions are in operation. Follow signs.

Admission: Free.

Time: 9.30am-4.00pm.

On show: Harvester and cleaner loader demos, clamp demo, Limex spreading demo, static technical and trade stands. No GM crops are present on the site.

Biosecurity: Strict foot-and-mouth and rhizomania precautions will be in place. Visitors should arrive with clean boots and vehicles.

Organisers: British Sugar and East of England Agricultural Society in association with Crops and sponsored by HSBC Agriculture.

More info: EEAS 01733 370038.


&#8226 Medium/heavy loam over chalk.

&#8226 6000t beet contract.

&#8226 Late establishment.

&#8226 Advantage treated seed, summer rain and foliar fungicides aided crop.

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