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Pioneering trials partnership aims to help farmers grow better sugar beet

PUBLISHED: 12:30 22 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:09 22 May 2020

The sugar industry has launched a trials programme aiming to give beet growers independent information on seed performance. Pictured: Norfolk farmer Mark Fletcher, of the National Farmers' Union's sugar board. Picture: Ian Burt

The sugar industry has launched a trials programme aiming to give beet growers independent information on seed performance. Pictured: Norfolk farmer Mark Fletcher, of the National Farmers' Union's sugar board. Picture: Ian Burt

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East Anglia’s sugar growers, processors and researchers are working together on a trial programme which will, for the first time, give farmers impartial information on all commercially-available seed technologies.

The sugar industry has launched a trials programme aiming to give beet growers independent information on seed performance. Picture: Chris HillThe sugar industry has launched a trials programme aiming to give beet growers independent information on seed performance. Picture: Chris Hill

The collaboration between British Sugar, the National Farmers’ Union’s sugar board (NFU Sugar) and the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) aims to promote competition and innovation in the UK seed market, and give growers the knowledge to choose the best processed seed for their conditions.

An estimated £100,000 per year is being invested in the trials programme to assess the performance of manufacturers’ priming and pelleting treatments.

The independent trials are being carried out by the Norwich-based BBRO and funded solely by the UK sugar beet industry.

Working across six trial sites, BBRO scientists will assess pellets for emergence speed, final emergence and crop yield. The BBRO says it will own the trial data, so will be able to publish results transparently without any commercial concerns.

The sugar industry has launched a trials programme aiming to give beet growers independent information on seed performance. Picture: Chris HillThe sugar industry has launched a trials programme aiming to give beet growers independent information on seed performance. Picture: Chris Hill

The joint NFU and British Sugar Seed Working Group will look for three years of trial data before marketing any alternative pellet types on the annual sugar beet seed price list. Limited volumes of each pellet type in the trial will be available to growers in the meantime, to promote commercial uptake of new technology while it is being assessed.

North Norfolk farmer Mark Fletcher, who is technical seed lead for the NFU Sugar board, said: “The Seed Working Group has an ambition to provide every UK grower, in the short and long term, with the best processed seed for their conditions, the knowledge to choose it, at the best price, supplied at the right time. This new trial is another step towards delivering that goal.

“The UK beet seed market underwent significant change for the 2020 crop, with the introduction of pellets from multiple providers for the first time through the NFU-British Sugar Seed Working Group seed list. This new trial programme will promote continued competition and innovation in the market.”

READ MORE: Sugar factories finally complete longest-ever campaign after torrid season for beet growers

Peter Watson, agriculture director for British Sugar, added: “These trials are very welcome, and will enable us to offer the best possible options for seed pelleting to our growers. We all want to see the benefits of good crop emergence and high yields, and the data from the trials will help growers to pick the best varieties and seed pellet for their individual circumstances.

Norfolk farmer Mark Fletcher, of the National Farmers' Union's sugar board. Picture: Ian BurtNorfolk farmer Mark Fletcher, of the National Farmers' Union's sugar board. Picture: Ian Burt

“This is just one of the ways we are working with our partners across the beet sugar industry to help growers to make informed choices, and to make it as straightforward as possible to do businesses with British Sugar.”


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