BBRO has released an interim report investigating 2013 sugar beet establishment problems
BBRO has released an interim report investigating 2013 sugar beet establishment problems. Dominic Kilburn reports. No differences have been found in non-commercial batches of sugar beet varieties when treated with either ‘Xbeet’ or ‘Xbeet plus’ seed priming technology in standard germination tests. However, differences in germination and the number of abnormal seedlings when tested under cold (stressed) conditions have been highlighted between bulks of the same varieties.That’s according to the BBRO which this month released an interim review of results from investigations into the 2013 sugar beet emergence issues which affected crops across all the main sugar beet growing areas as well as different varieties.The BBRO believes that the prevailing weather during the sowing programme played a significant part in the establishment and abnormal seed development problems.”I don’t think that we would have been having this discussion if we’d had more normal conditions at planting,” stated BBRO lead scientist Dr Mark Stevens, speaking earlier this month. He said that because the entire commercial crop drilled in 2013 was treated with Xbeet plus, there were no equivalent batches of Xbeet-treated seed for direct comparison in studies which were first initiated in June this year. Consequently, BBRO has investigated three sources of seed representing varieties Cayman, Pasteur and SY Muse, including original raw (untreated and un-primed) seed supplied to priming company Germains direct from the breeders.”When we tested the lots at standard temperatures of 16C and above, everything germinated as normal with very few abnormalities – in line with industry tolerance levels. Decreasing the temperature of the test increased the germination time as expected but all Xbeet plus-treated seed lots achieved over 94 per cent germination within 27 days at a mean temperature of 8.5C.”However, at the same lower temperature, differences in the rate and final germination of the raw seed of the three varieties were seen, ranging from 42-90 per cent after 42 days, but these differences were not observed once primed and pelleted by Germains,” explained Mark.In further tests conducted in Europe on a soil/sand mix, variations were seen in the speed of germination, although there were no differences in the final percentage germination of the non-commercial batches of Cayman, Pasteur or SY Muse when treated with either Xbeet or Xbeet plus, added Mark, with a range between 95-100 per cent.He also pointed out that decreasing the temperature in the tests increased the number of abnormal seed types in some bulks of raw and primed seed.”Further cold tests remain on-going but the BBRO believes that all seed in the future should undergo cold temperature, as well as standard tests, to identify any potential issues under cold stress that may arise,” he said.It should also be noted that no emergence issues were recorded in any of the BBRO/BSPB variety trials and these were treated with the Germains plus pellet only.
A full summary of all studies will be presented at the BBRO Winter Conference on 5th February 2014.Xbeet or Xbeet plus?
With British Sugar and the NFU agreeing that both Xbeet plus and Xbeet seed coating options were offered to growers for the coming beet drilling season, NFU Sugar Board member and Suffolk beet farmer, Robert Baker suggested that it may simply have been an unfortunate coincidence that Xbeet plus was used exclusively for coating this season’s crop. “While I don’t think that the Xbeet plus was the problem, growers are naturally cautious and it is for that reason they were given the option of both Xbeet and Xbeet plus for next year.”Work undertaken by the BBRO has shown that climatic conditions have played a big part in poor establishment of some crops last spring, but it wasn’t just the conditions,” commented Robert. “More work needs to be done to identify why some bulks of some varieties have performed worse than others, especially when exposed to stressful conditions. It is frustrating for those affected, including me, with so many questions remaining unanswered and it is vitally important for the whole industry that we discover exactly what happened to our crops this year.”What the breeder said…
The BBRO report makes some important observations from this year’s emergence and rooting problems that growers have been facing this season. But before drawing any conclusions we must await the full report and data, stressed SesVanderHave general manager Ian Munnery. “We would urge this is provided swiftly so any lessons can be implemented in good time. Nonetheless it is important that BBRO has confirmed that there were emergence issues with crops drilled in late April and May – outside of the cold spring. In addition it confirmed that there were no issues with the BBRO/BSPB variety trials,” he pointed out.”BBRO had commented previously that at least 10 varieties, from all breeders, have been affected to a greater or lesser extent,” continued Ian. “However SESVanderHave does not recognise the BBRO claim that globally there are similarly affected plant stands and rooting issues. We see neither the same symptoms nor severity outside of the UK. In fact we see our Start-Up priming and our proprietary pellet routinely provide improved and faster emergence – something SESVanderHave has seen repeated over many years and many millions of units globally.”It is positive that BBRO now suggests that all technologies are tested robustly and independently in future, as SESVanderHave already does with all its varieties. The BBRO recommendation of a priming and pelleting trial in 2014 is also to be welcomed, allowing performance to be fully evaluated and providing the widest possible choice for growers; words echoed by both British Sugar and NFU Sugar when offering growers the choice of choosing Xbeet or Xbeet plus following the release of the BBRO report.”Growers and British Sugar will be reassured to know SESVanderHave will put more measures in place – field trials and laboratory tests – checking seed quality on seeds processed by third parties to protect our varieties and reputation in the future.”We look forward to meeting with BBRO in due course to discuss its findings and share our own,” he added.