A new 20 million euro (£16.9m) sugar beet R&D centre will accelerate the screening of new genetics, allow a threefold increase in testing and almost double the delivery of new varieties to the market, according to plant breeding business SESVanderHave.
The new centre was opened in Tienen, Belgium on September 6, 2016 by Belgian federal agriculture minister Willy Borsus. According to SESVanderHave (SV) it is one of the most hi-tech facilities to be built by the sugar industry, with over 13,000sq.m of glasshouses and 2000sq.m of laboratories.
Speaking at the opening of the new facility, the firm’s chief executive Rob van Tetering said; “This SVIC is critical to the company and the sugar industry. It enhances our capabilities meaning we can continue to push the boundaries for yield whilst delivering the crop from environmental and biological threats.”
With increasing pressure on pesticides, the need for sugar beet varieties with resistance to pests and disease was set to increase and the role of plant breeding to become more and more important. SV expected to submit sugar beet varieties incorporating ALS herbicide resistance traits for registration next year, he added.
Mr van Tetering also called for ‘joint responsibility’ within the sugar beet sector to ensure an expected expansion in the beet area post-quotas did not come at the expense of competitiveness.
SV R&D director Gerhard Steinrucken said a significant amount of the firm’s investment was in the latest tools to use within the SVIC, including the next generation of plant breeding analytics, innovative investigative methods, bioassays and automation. “This allows even greater analysis of sugarbeet and its DNA,” he said.
“Our sugar beet seed is grown in more than 50 countries worldwide, all with unique environmental needs, making a tailored genetic solution essential in each of our varieties. The SVIC will allow us to analyse all the factors that restrict and enhance performance.”
European Seed Association president Garlich von Essen, a keynote speaker at the centre’s inauguration event, highlighted increasing yields in the arable sector, which, he said, were the result of innovation not rising levels of inputs. He shared figures from an ESA-commissioned report which showed an average 1.1 per cent/per annum yield increase in the European arable sector had been achieved with a decrease in inputs of crop protection (down 0.6 per cent), fertiliser (down 1.1 per cent) and labour (down 3.3 per cent) inputs between 2000-2013.
"Agriculture is not intensifying in the way people think it is. Yield increases are being achieved by innovation not intensification," he said.