The lack of a market for organic sugar beet was seen as a key constraint to organic conversion. The production of sugar from organically-grown beet would also allow British Sugar plc to meet their market demand for organic sugar and organic animal feeds from home-grown sources and so replace imports and help protect the UK share of the EU sugar quota.
Little work has been done or published on organic sugar beet production. Swedish work indicated that sugar yields of over 9 t/ha are possible (Larsson, 1999). The first UK organically grown commercial sugar beet crops were harvested in 2001. To gain information on how best to manage these crops, a programme of experiments was funded by the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO). The objectives of the work were to identify challenges for organic beet production on different soil types in the UK and develop initial agronomic strategies to meet these challenges.
Outcomes / Key Message For Growers And Industry
Weed control by tractor and hand hoeing, and rogueing gave satisfactory results at all apart from three sites where low fertility, drought and an organic soil with high weed pressure gave particular problems. At all bar two sites, the cost of weed control was similar to, or less than, the cost in a non-organic crop. The aim must be zero or minimal hand weeding.