Herbicide-tolerant sugar beet among new varieties recommended to East Anglian growers

Sugar beet in a field close to Cantley.

Picture: James Bass

Sugar beet in a field close to Cantley. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

A herbicide-tolerant sugar beet which could help East Anglian growers tackle weed problems is among seven new varieties being recommended for next season.

The sugar beet recommended list (RL) is a joint venture between the Norwich-based BBRO (British Beet Research Organisation) and the BSPB (British Society of Plant Breeders), based on the results of 13 yield trials sown each year.

The 2020 list includes Smart Janninka KWS, the first of a new generation of varieties with tolerance to ALS (acetolactate synthase) inhibitor herbicides.

Seed breeder KWS says the variety will allow growers to grow sugar beet on land where a high weed burden previously excluded the crop, without a significant yield penalty.

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The other six additions to the 2020 RL are Advena from KWS, BTS 4100 from Limagrain, and Vixen, Conger, Puffin and Lightning from SESVanderHave.

Mike May, chairman of the Recommended List Board, said these new additions offer up to 4pc extra yield compared to the control varieties in the trial, despite last year's challenging season for this staple East Anglian crop.

“2018 was a difficult growing season for the commercial crop and trials alike; adverse weather delayed drilling, this was followed by a prolonged drought, and a late burst of nitrogen when the drought finally broke in the autumn,” he said. “Despite this, the control varieties in the trials still managed to achieve a mean yield of 112 adjusted tonnes per hectare with new varieties offering up to a 4.0pc yield increase above that, highlighting the resilience of the crop in such conditions.”

“In addition it is also good to see the first ALS herbicide tolerant variety on the list. The herbicides for use with this variety have now been approved, and should be available for the 2020 sowings.”

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Another area breeders have been focusing on is to produce varieties less prone to bolting – the premature production of flowering stems in warmer weather.

Mr May said six of the new varieties did not bolt in any of the normal-sown trials (sown after 15 March) in any of the three years of testing, from 2016-2018. These were Advena KWS, BTS4100, Vixen, Conger, Puffin and Smart Janninka KWS, although the latter did so when sown early and is not recommended for sowing before March 15.

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