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Growers are being advised to discuss their requirements with plant breeders before ordering sugar beet seed tolerant to challenges faced by the crop. Six... ‘Seek advice when ordering tolerant sugar beet varieties’

Growers are being advised to discuss their requirements with plant breeders before ordering sugar beet seed tolerant to challenges faced by the crop.

Six new sugar beet varieties have been added to the British Beet Research Organisation recommended list for drilling in 2025. They include varieties tolerant to Beet Cyst Nematode, AYPR rhizomania, yellowing virus, cercospora and ALS herbicides.

New varieties are Chyma, Josephina and Smart Uma – all from KWS UK; Magpie from SesVanderHave; and ST Tweed and ST Trent from Strube UK. Three varieties were withdrawn which means the 2025 list comprises 22 varieties.

Limited data

Data is limited on the tolerance of the new varieties to foliar diseases such as rust, powdery mildew and cercospera. Chyma KWS tolerance to cercospora, for example, was determined elsewhere and not in the recommended list trials.

Chyma KWS has tolerance to cercospora but unsuitable for early sowing. In recommended list trials, it produced 101.0% adjusted tonnes at 16.9% sugar content – but the trials did not determine its cercospora tolerance.

Smart Uma KWS is ALS tolerant – likely to produce higher yields when used with partner ALS herbicides than with conventional products. Treated with non-ALS herbicides, in trials it yielded 95.3% adjusted tonnes with 17.1% sugar content.

Mike May, who oversees the annual recommended list, said: “Growers should discuss options with the BBRO and breeders who will have more information on their performance and use in the presence of the specific problem.”

Other varieties

In terms of the other new varieties, Josephina KWS from KWS UK produced 99.5% adjusted tonnes at 17.3% sugar content. This was the highest on the list. It had the lowest number of bolters in the early sown bolter trials.

ST Tweed from Strube UK produced 98.2% adjusted tonnes at 17.0% sugar content. It had lower establishment than the other varieties.

Magpie from SesVanderHave UK produced 97.7% adjusted tonnes at 17.1% sugar content. ST Trent from Strube UK produced 97.7% adjusted tonnes at 17.2% sugar content – the second highest on the list.

The BBRO said it should be noted that many differences between individual varieties are small and not statistically significant and should be treated with caution.

Dip in sales restricts sugar profits

Lower sales by British Sugar restricted profits for parent company Associated British Foods during the six months to March, suggest latest figures.

Interim results show ABF global sugar revenues reached £1.170bn compared to £1.168bn for the same period in 2022/23 – equivalent to a 9% increase when measured in constant currency.

Operating profits improved significantly – from £86m to £121m – driven by lower losses at Yorkshire biofuels plant Vivergo and stronger performance in Spain. But this was partially offset by the phasing of profits at British Sugar.

British Sugar sales were lower during the period, said the company. This was due to lower stock levels held over from last year’s production campaign, which ABF said was severely affected by adverse weather.

“We were also impacted by lower co-product prices in the period,” says the interim report. “As expected, profits were somewhat lower as a result.

“However, despite some disruption caused by wet weather, sugar production from the 2023/24 campaign is expected to be 1.1 million tonnes, significantly ahead of last year’s unusually low crop (740,000 tonnes) and broadly in line with historical levels.”

Meanwhile, the report says British Sugar continues to make progress in decarbonising its operations.

“In the period we approved two projects: the replacement of a coal boiler at our Cantley plant and new evaporators at our Wissington plant to increase efficiency and significantly reduce energy usage.”