Cold spring weather has piled the pressure on sugar beet growers to get the most from crops and optimise yields.
A robust nutrient management programme is essential, says Natalie Wood, arable agronomist at Yara. This will help achieve a full leaf canopy which is what produces the highest yields, she adds.
“By intercepting at least 90% of incoming sunlight quickly and maintaining its greenness throughout the growing season, sugar beet will accumulate sugar from very early in its growth cycle.”
Growing this canopy early is critical. For this reason, nitrogen is the single most important nutrient, as it promotes growth at all stages of the plant’s development. But care must be taken to ensure other nutrients are in order.
“A balanced crop nutrition program is key,” says Ms Wood.
“Make sure you have all the essential macro and micro nutrients to get the most from your crop.”
Phosphorus – crucial for early growth, is often limited in many soils. Fresh applications help ensure availability and avoid deficiency. Potassium and sodium also boost growth rates, regulating water and nutrient movement within the crop.
Sulphur, too, can often be overlooked. “Sulphur is essential for high yields,” says Ms Wood.
“It is linked with nitrogen. The ratio of nitrogen to sulphur in a healthy plant would be about 15:1. A higher ratio than that could lead to deficiency.”
Magnesium drives yield development through photosynthetic activity. During root expansion and growth, rapid cell division needs large amounts of boron. Deficiency can lead to deterioration of root and leaf expansion, compromising yields.
While factors such as temperature and water supply will have an impact on yield and sugar content, one area where farmers do have control – and the chance to positively impact their crop – is in managing their nutrients.
“Making sure the right nutrients are applied at sufficient levels can make a real difference, ” says Ms Wood.
“There are also micronutrients that play a key role: manganese, boron, copper and molybdenum.
“The best approach is to apply a product that contains several of these key nutrients, such as YaraVita Brassitrel Pro – that way we know we’re supplying the crop with what it needs for healthy growth.”
“Now is the time to act. Make sure you have an effective nutrient management programme in place to give your sugar beet crop its best chance for high yields.”