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Good seedbeds made up for late start to beet drilling campaign

With sugar beet drilling completed in the latter half of April, most crops went into good seedbeds, reports British Sugar

With sugar beet drilling completed in the latter half of April, most crops went into good seedbeds, reports British Sugar. Dominic Kilburn gets a seasonal update.

Despite sugar beet drilling this spring taking place later than normal on account of the weather conditions, British Sugar expected all crops to be largely completed by the weekend of the 20th and 21st April.Commenting on the establishment of the 2013 crop, British Sugars head of commercial agriculture, Richard Nicholls said that although plantings did take place later than last year, 2012 had been a season when much of the crop had been drilled particularly early.
While drilling was certainly delayed this year, growers reported seedbeds being better than expected and this enabled most of them to make very quick progress with plantings once they got underway. According to a recent BBRO bulletin, warmer conditions now being experienced will help weeds to flush, and some more showers of rain would be ideal for those who have applied a pre-emergence herbicide onto otherwise dry seedbeds. Post-emergence herbicide applications will be driven by the timing of weed emergence and good growing conditions should help with weed control, it added.The bulletin also reminded growers to remain vigilant for slug and bird damage to emerging crops. Sugar beet remains vulnerable to such attack until the 46 leaf stage and timely nitrogen applications will help plants grow away from these pests.Turning to transport issues, Richard said that growers now have the opportunity to sign up for the 2013 industry-managed transport scheme. He said that approximately 10 per cent of the 2012 tonnage was transported via the scheme, in which participation was growing each year, and it is expected that this trend would continue for the 2013/14 campaign.Unknown territory
Norfolk-based independent agronomist and an advisor for BBRO, Dr Pat Turnbull, said that this seasons sugar beet drilling campaign had put many growers and advisers in unknown territory on account of the slow start. She pointed out that some crops which had been drilled during the first week in March were only in the early stages of germination by mid-April. Temperatures remained so low during that period that absolutely nothing got going, she commented. With sugar beet seed only drilled at depths of 23cm, both soil and air temperature affect its establishment and we were certainly outside of our usual experience with crops only in the early stages of germination after five weeks, she stressed.Speaking in mid-April, Dr Turnbull suggested that while many pre-emergence weed control sprays went on in early April, she reckoned that, due to the slow establishment of crops, post-emergence applications would mostly start in May. Weed control strategies in beet should always be based on what growers find in front of them at the time, and while I am often in favour of the FAR system lower active ingredient products at regular spray intervals this could be the season where very high workloads with other crops clash with sugar beet weed control operations.It could mean that applications such as DuPonts Broadacre approach, based around applying a number of actives at higher rates, might be more appropriate for this season, she said.By the time this hits the doormat we will hopefully have had some warmer weather, crops will be really starting to move and post-emergence sprays will be in full swing. Growers will also be considering their second top dressing of the season, Dr Turnbull concluded.Bolting predictions
The BBRO says that it is hard to predict levels of bolting for sugar beet crops drilled early in the cold conditions experienced in March, however, with the majority of crops drilled in April, when more seasonal temperature averages returned, levels of bolting in these fields are likely to be low.Thats according to BBRO agricultural trials and development manager, Ed Burks, (left) who, speaking in mid-April, said that the intensity of vernalization for early drilled beet had yet to be calculated and so it was difficult to predict the levels of bolting that could be expected for those crops.But with the majority of drilling undertaken in April, and the return of warmer weather, the prediction is for lower levels of bolting for most fields, he explained.
According to the BBRO, sugar beet plants bolt when they experience sufficient cold to become vernalized, and the vernalizing intensity is measured from the point at which seeds absorb water. However, as can be seen from Figure 1, it is not the case that the colder the temperature, the greater the effect on bolting. Vernalization is induced by temperatures between 314C, but temperatures between 69C are far more effective than temperatures below 4C or above 10C.  Sugar beet plants need 140 hours of vernalizing temperatures to start bolting, continued Ed. For the more bolting-susceptible varieties, for every extra hour in addition to the 140 hours they are exposed to those temperatures, then the more bolting will occur. As the season progresses well be able to report on this seasonal intensity of vernalization and offer a view on bolting prospects for this year, but, working on the assumption that the weather remains normal from here on, bolting is very unlikely to be a problem in crops drilled from the beginning of April.Figure 1: Temperature and its effect on bolting. – Source: BBRO Advisory Bulletin

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