BBRO Research

Our sugar beet research programme covers 2 areas of activity; crop production and crop protection.

Our full research programme currently consists of over 20 projects, some of which our delivered solely in-house but where possible we work in collaboration with other research partners. This increases the knowledge and expertise available, links us to other work and ensures increased return on our investment. The work within each pillar varies dependent on which issues have most importance or urgency to the industry.  


Crop protection is a key component for a successful and profitable sugar beet crop. Today, growers have a range of tools, technologies and elite varieties, to tackle and limit the ever increasing threats from pests, diseases and weeds. However, as climate change and environmental pressures build we have to look at new approaches to protecting the sugar beet crop.

Crop Stability is focused on delivering a clean, consistent and healthy crop which will maximize the yield potential from the genetics and growing environment.  We know the potential of the existing genetics and aim to close the current gap between actual and potential yield. The need to ensure we have alternative strategies for the loss of active ingredients and the impact of government legislation changes such as neonicotinoid loss are paramount to the success of the crop. 



Current: Managing insecticide resistance

This is a new project linked to previous work with Rothamsted and a number of partners relating to insecticide resistance. Monitoring for resistance or reduc...

Current: AphidNet: automatic aphid recognition and counting based on field water trap imagery by deep learning

This work is extremely timely as the UK 2020 aphid/virus situation has been unprecedented, following the exceptionally mild January and February (reflected in t...

Current: Integrated disease control in sugar beet

The most important fungal foliar diseases affecting sugar beet in the UK have historically been rust (Uromyces betae) and powdery mildew (Erysiphe betae), both ...

Current: Development of crop management strategies for ‘free-living’ plant parasitic nematodes infecting sugar beet (Beta vulgaris)

Plant parasitic nematodes (PPNs) are important pests for many crops globally and result in a c. 14% loss of production annually, which equates £132 billion. The...

Current: Understanding the physiological impact of fungicides on sugar beet

The use of fungicides in sugar beet has become commonplace in the past 10-15 years with the majority of crops now receiving two sprays per year, and late harves...

Current: Validating guidance for insecticide resistance management across commodities

Guidance for the management of insecticide resistance has long advocated that:

Current: Population genetics and ecology of a leaf mining pest

Climate change is causing changes in the nature and distribution of crop pest and disease populations, resulting in novel threats to food security. Biological r...

Current: Mature plant resistance

The project focuses on the phenomenon of mature plant resistance (MPR) to control the spread and impact of yellowing viruses of sugar beet. MPR is a general def...

Current: Virus yellows forecasting

Infection by beet yellowing viruses causes a significant risk to sugar beet yields. Beet yellowing viruses comprise Beet Yellows Virus (BYV), Beet Mild Yellowin...

Current: Variety interaction with Virus Yellows

This project will provide information to determine whether any current/future RL varieties respond differently to virus yellows infection (BMYV and BYV) and hen...

Current: Virus yellows: aphid monitoring and alternative control strategies using existing/novel insecticides

Virus yellows is a greater problem in the UK than anywhere else in Europe due to the influence of our maritime climate. Virus threats are accentuated by the ong...

Complete: Weed Control Review: Desk study

ADAS were contracted to review current weed control options and future opportunities for UK crops.

Complete: Spray Application Review: Desk study

Research into optimum spray application methods for controlling weeds, pests and diseases for sugar beet has been very limited in the UK and there is scope for ...

Complete: Innovate UK: A novel pre-breeding strategy to reduce dependence on insecticides for virus yellows control in sugar beet

Virus yellows is a major economic disease affecting sugar beet; its impact is particularly significant in the UK due to our maritime climate, and will be exacer...

Complete: Interactions between beet cyst nematode, sugar beet and brassica crops

BCN poses a serious threat to growers who cultivate sugar beet on infested fields. This project supersedes: Beet Cyst nematode: control and rotational issue...

Complete: Discovering the source of sugar beet infection and re-infection by rust and powdery mildew

Powdery mildew and rust can cause sugar yield losses of up to 20% and 14% respectively. Little is known about (1) the level of diversity of E. betae races, (2) ...

Complete: Maximising sugar yield via fungicides

Previous fungicide trials have shown that the application of a single fungicide can give yield benefits of up to 8 adjusted t/ha and, from a two-spray strategy,...

Complete: Combating resistance to aphicides in UK aphid pests

Supported by the Chemical Regulation Directorate (CRD), and a consortium of agrochemical companies and levy boards, this project provides research on aphicide r...

Complete: Mitigating new threats from virus yellows: monitoring aphid populations and insecticide resistance to maintain control

To optimise and sustain the use of insecticides on beet by providing forecasts and up-to-date information on the timing and abundance of aphids, their virus con...

Closed: Monitoring the future risk of rhizomania

Previously, rhizomania had a major economic impact on the UK industry, potentially decreasing yields by up to 70%. The development of partially-resistant variet...

Closed: Predicting egg hatch in mangold fly (leaf miner)

The larvae of the mangold fly (Pegomya hyoscyami) mine extensively sugar beet leaves, resulting in blisters that reduce photosynthetic area, increase sensitivit...

Closed: Beet cyst nematode: control and rotational issues with brassica species

The significance and importance of oilseed rape and other brassica species in sugar beet rotations is increasing. An appreciation of these rotational issues and...

Innovative strategies to control and monitor sugar beet pests and diseases

This project integrates closely with existing BBRO and BBSRC LINK- supported projects on disease resistance, foliar disease control and nematode dynamics.

Innovate UK: Innovative disease monitoring and diagnostics for improved efficiency of crop production (SPOREID)

SPOREID is a new project designed to minimise the impact of disease on yield of the UK sugar beet crop. The yield potential of the UK sugar beet crop is c.130 t...

Crop production focuses on soil management and crop establishment.

The crop production research programme is targeted at areas where we believe there is the greatest potential for development.  

The programme focuses on closing the yield gap between the commercial crop and the variety trials.  Whilst improved genetics have had high impact there is a need to strengthen our understanding in other key areas such as:

  • soil management
  • early crop rooting and canopy development
  • how the crop is influenced by environmental relationships; water, nutrients, soil and temperature.  


Current: Canopy Architecture

This project is focusing on sugar beet radiation use efficiency (RUE) which is examining radiation (sunlight) interception by the canopy and measuring its resul...

Current: AHDB Soil Biology and Soil Health

BBRO are pleased to support this large industry collaboration on soil biology and health.

Current: Assessing drought tolerance in UK sugar beet varieties

On average 59% of the fields in which sugar beet is grown consist of soil which is classified as sand based (loamy sand, sand, sandy clay loam, sandy loam, sand...

Current: Variety Trials Programme

The Recommended List Trials Programme involves approx.17 sites, of which up to 13 are taken for yield assessments. The programme includes trials for disease ass...

Current: The evaluation of new seed treatments, priming technologies and/or pellet types for the UK sugar beet market

BBRO protocol for evaluating new seed treatments, priming technologies and/or pellet types for the UK

Closed: Intra-field Variation

Interpreting and managing the spatial heterogeneity in sugar beet yields by long-term monitoring of crops. INSPiRE (Interpreting & managing spatial performance...

Closed: Optimising plant populations and N rates for modern, high-yielding sugar beet crops

There is circumstantial evidence to suggest that some UK high yielding sugar beet crops grown under modern conditions may benefit from higher than recommended p...

Closed: Sequential Variety Harvest

Investigation into the relationship between variety canopy growth characteristics and the yield performance of sugar beet varieties at different harvest dates a...

Closed: Nitrogen Prediction Response Evaluation (NPRE)

The fertiliser recommendations for sugar beet as laid out by DEFRA in RB209 assume a yield of 60t/ha. Whilst there is no evidence that higher yielding crops req...

Current: The role of agronomy and genotype in tissue integrity and associated sugar losses during storage.

Average losses in clamp are approximately 0.1% of total sugar volume per day (BBRO, 2016). These losses are a consequence of many factors including harvesting ...

Complete: Comparison of soil and foliar applied nutrition to improve yields

A number of approaches to ensure developing seedling receive optimum nutrition are practiced across a range of other crops. This includes: seed-applied nutritio...

Complete: Understanding water uptake in sugar beet

It has been long known that sugar beet does not yield well under drought conditions. In the UK there is a 10% yield loss as a result of drought on average and i...

Complete: Sugar beet response to additional applications of sulphur fertiliser and the identification of soil & cropping systems

Work on other arable crops such as OSR and cereals has shown that crops frequently respond to additional sulphur fertilisers, especially on lighter land where t...

Complete: Monitoring sugar beet storage

The project will re-evaluate sugar losses during storage to take account of modern 'whole beet' recovery practices and the increasing use of A-shaped storage cl...

Complete: Genetic influences of sugar beet cell wall composition on biorefining

Aim: to understand the genetic basis of variation in sugar beet cell wall composition.

Complete: Placed nitrogen phosphate

This project will show whether, by placing N, can we improve N uptake efficiency and improve the performance of crops and to what extent it may be possible to r...

Complete: Economics of sugar beet irrigation in England

The experimental (field) data on the response of sugar beet to irrigation in England was reviewed. The literature mostly dates from the 1970s and 1980s and show...

Complete: Understanding water use efficiency in sugar beet

This project focuses on water use efficiency (WUE) in sugar beet, which examines the plant’s water use and the associated yields achieved. Sugar beet is often o...

Complete: The effect of cover crops on soil structure and the subsequent sugar beet yield

The project is investigating the effect of autumn/winter cover crops on the physical structure of soil before and throughout the sugar beet crop and how this ma...

Complete: Review of strip tillage for sugar beet beet production

The objective to this proposed project is to produce a review to better understand how strip tillage is currently being used in sugar beet in the United Kingdom...

Complete: Understanding soil plant interactions to improve sugar beet productivity

On average, 10% of sugar beet yield is lost to drought in the UK. In field surveys are being used to identify constraints to rooting at depth, which limits wate...

Complete: To increase the profitability and sustainability of the UK sugar beet industry through reductions in soil tare

Large quantities of soil adhering to beet are delivered to factories during the campaign at considerable cost to the industry in transportation, removal and dis...

Complete: Maximising the benefits from cover crops through species selection and crop management (Maxi-Cover Crop)

This project aims to maximise the potential economic, agronomic and ecological benefits from cover crops through a better understanding of species effects and c...

To investigate UK sugar beet cleaner loader losses

The harvester testing program has highlighted instances of both good and bad whole beet losses through cleaner loaders (often the same make/model) highlighting ...

Assessment of the reduction of sugar losses by adopting a direct transfer 'Chaser'-based harvesting system

The use of chaser bins (also known as transfer wagons) are not an entirely new concept and have been used widely in Australia and North America transferring gra...

Beet plant spatial layout -equidistant plant spacing

Work done in the 1900s (SBREC) demonstrated that drilling beet on a 30x30cm grid delivered increased sugar yields of 4-5%. The challenge of precision drilling ...

Minimisation of sugar yield due to frost

Freezing temperatures can damage sugar beet roots, often leading to losses in sugar and causing problems during processing . Better understanding of the environ...



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BBRO is a not for profit making company.
We are set up jointly by British Sugar plc and the National Farmers' Union.

British Sugar
National Farmers' Union