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Suffolk and Norfolk sugar beet growers shown how drones, soil health and benchmarking can transform crop success

PUBLISHED: 10:46 20 July 2019 | UPDATED: 08:46 26 July 2019

The soil pit at BBRO Thelveton trials site, near Diss  Picture: FRANCESCA BROOM

The soil pit at BBRO Thelveton trials site, near Diss Picture: FRANCESCA BROOM

BBRO

More than 500 East Anglian sugar beet growers were given tips on how to improve their crops at a two-day specialist crop event held partly on the Suffolk/Norfolk border

BBRO held its Beetfield19 at itsThelveton trials site, near Diss: Philip Draycott with Alex Mann, checking conditions in the soil pit   Picture: FRANCESCA BROOMBBRO held its Beetfield19 at itsThelveton trials site, near Diss: Philip Draycott with Alex Mann, checking conditions in the soil pit Picture: FRANCESCA BROOM

They were told to 'be smarter' in their choice of varieties at the British Beet Research Organisation's (BBRO) Beetfield19, which took place at Fotheringhay, Peterborough, on July 2 and moved to the Thelveton Estate near Diss on July 4.

Rather than looking at crops in isolation, BBRO encouraged growers to plan across their full rotation, creating an integrated management plan and improving their general soil health.

They were also told to check crops regularly and respond to changing circumstances as the season progresses.

Growers were able to view trials of the 22 varieties available for the 2020 season, including seven new ones.

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Dr Alistair Wright of the University of Nottingham and BBRO demonstrated the new BBRO drone, explaining how its multi-spectrum camera will help growers make smarter varietal choices.

The university's Toby Townsend announced the launch of a new BBRO benchmarking system, backed by British Sugar. It provides more than five years' worth of anonymised on-farm commercial data, enabling growers to compare their previous results against growers across the growing region or in their area, and is available at www.bbro.co.uk

Dr Simon Bowen led a number of soil and crop establishment sessions with the support of Philip Draycott, independent agronomist, and some of the University of Nottingham Beet Team.

He urged growers to take the advantage of a slight pause in farm activity in July ahead of combining to take a good look at fields destined for beet in 2020.

He reminded them that there was no simple 'one size fits all' formula, and that it was important to understand their soils, using a soil pit at Thelveton to show areas to watch, not just in the top-soil but also in the sub-soil.

Dr Mark Stevens looked at pest and virus control. Despite the good health of crops at both sites, growers were urged to check theirs carefully for issues such as leaf miner (pest damage) - found on a limited number of crops - along with silvering disease and downy mildew, which could emerge in the autumn.

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