Project summaries

There are currently 5 full research projects being delivered within this activity pillar, with a combined value of more than £500,000.

Variety Trials Programme

The Recommended List Trials Programme involves 17 sites, of which 13 are taken for yield assessments. The programme includes trials for disease assessment and early sown bolting. The yield assessment sites involve 120 varieties, with four replications of each. A total of 3,840 plots taken from seed to harvest and ultimately processing through the BBRO plot trial unit with the sugar analysis being done in the commercial tare house at Wissington.

Sequential root dig

The adjusted yield of clean beet is the product of clean beet yield and their sugar percentage. Clean beet yields are not only governed by how much fresh or dry matter a crop produces, but also by how these are partitioned between tops and beet. Similarly, the yield of sugar is determined by how much of the beet’s weight is present as sugar, no-sugar dry matter of water. All of these factors vary on different soil types, between seasons and (it is believed) with plant population. Past work has documented some of these changes in experimental crops, and this work aims to provide corresponding data for modern, high-yielding crops.

Nitrogen prediction response evaluation

The fertiliser recommendations for sugar beet as laid out by DEFRA in RB209 assume a yield of 60t/ha. While there is no evidence that higher yielding crops require more nitrogen, it remains important in the light of continuing pressure on the use of N fertiliser and the greenhouse gas levels associated with its production and use, that the industry maintains a long-term data set of crop yield response to nitrogen fertiliser to maintain and defend its use in future review of publications such as RB209. Of course, such a database will also allow the identification of any changing trends in nitrogen requirements due to factors such as climate change or variety development.

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 plant populations and more nitrogen fertiliser. This extensive three year programme of experiments will examine this by testing factorial combinations of up to seven rates of N (0-200 kg/ha) and six plant population densities (50,000 – 150,000/ha) on different soil types. This will allow plant number/N rate yield-response curves to be created to more precisely establish optimal plant numbers and N rates for different soil types.

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 water uptake. Future work will explore ways to overcome the constraints identified. The importance of early nutrient uptake to enhance rapid canopy expansion is well understood. In this project we aim to identify rooting traits linked to enhanced nutrient uptake, and thereby yield, with the long term aim of providing a screen for use by breeders. Patchy establishment is a problem in many sugar beet fields; by surveying seed beds over a number of years we will identify the seed bed properties most important in determining emergence and develop a tool to quantify seedbed quality.

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We are set up jointly by British Sugar plc and the National Farmers' Union.

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