Norfolk sugar beet growers win national Beet Yield Challenge

Royal Norfolk Show 2018. The Salle Estate, winners of the beet yield competition. From left: Poul Ho

Royal Norfolk Show 2018. The Salle Estate, winners of the beet yield competition. From left: Poul Hovesen, Martin Clinger, show president Ben Turner, Ryan Fulcher, Will Jones, Sam Bilverstone anfd Marshall Drew. Picture: Chris Hill. - Credit: Chris Hill

A Norfolk farm has won a national competition to find the sugar beet grower achieving the highest possible percentage of their crop's maximum potential yield.

Salle Farms, near Reepham, collected the industry accolade after producing a crop of 121 tonnes per hectare, at 95% of the yield potential – assessed by modelling the farm's soil capabilities, rainfall, spraying timings and crop development throughout the growing season.

The Beet Yield Challenge prize was presented at the Royal Norfolk Show by show president Ben Turner at a ceremony also attended by National Farmers' Union (NFU) president Minette Batters and British Sugar agriculture director Colm McKay.

After accepting the trophy Will Jones, from Salle Farms said: 'The yield potential is unbelievable.

'I didn't think it would be anywhere near that, but no-one here can tell you exactly why it has done it. The more people who enter this competition, the more information we get back about why that's where you ended up.

'I didn't expect to win. I put it down to soil health, using cover crops and livestock manure, and a good rotation. It is all about attention to detail, looking after the crop once you drill it, and having a great team.

'Everybody is saying there's no life in agriculture, but I'm 32 and I'm the oldest in my team – these boys are very young and very passionate, and that has got to be a good thing for agriculture.'

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The competition aims to give sugar growers and agronomists the chance to share ways of continuing the upward growth in sugar beet yields.

The British Beet Research Organisation, based in Norwich, has produced a first-year report outlining lessons learned from the challenge, identifying key focus areas for yield optimisation including seedbed quality, seed rates, pH levels in the soil, rapid canopy establishment, control of weeds and foliage disease, and leaving crops for later harvesting.