With periods of more settled and warmer weather, sugar beet drilling across the country is off to a flying start, with 50-60 per cent of estimated area to have been planted by the beginning of April.
Lincolnshire grower, Andrew Ward is trialling a small area of direct drilled sugar beet this year across his lighter land.
He says: “The field we have direct drilled is sandy soil over limestone with only about 20cm of soil before hitting pure stone, so it is very free draining.”
Mr Ward says he is very interested to see how the rooting structure copes in a no-till scenario, because sugar beet typically favours looser soils that allow for the root to freely grow.
“My initial thoughts are it is not going to be good enough because the root zone might be restricted so the beet itself does not put a tapered root down.
“Sugar beet grown in soil that is not so loose can also get lots of ‘fangs’ growing out the side of the beet instead of having a lovely shaped tapered root.”
Mr Ward drilled into stubble using a Vaderstad Tempo which was adapted to ensure seed was sufficiently covered.
He says: “It nearly left an open slot because the soil was firm and had not been moved and I was afraid the seed would be visible and put into a dry seedbed.
“As it turned out the seed has gone into moist soil because the soil has not been moved, so to make sure we covered the seed we angled the back two press wheels like a reverse snow plough with the point trailing to fetch all the loose fine soil on the surface and cover the seed.”
The remainder of the crop was min-tilled, after the plough was ditched in 2002.
Mr Ward is optimistic that should another hot, dry summer occur, the direct drilled sugar beet could cope better due to improved moisture retention in the undisturbed soil.
“It might be that because it is very free draining soil, we find that area does not wilt and dry out so much because the soil has not been moved. I am really interested to see how it performs compared to the cultivated area, and how it lifts come January or February.”