With 50-60 per cent of sugar beet estimated to have been planted by the beginning of April, drilling is expected to be complete by the second week of this month.
This is according to Dr Simon Bowen, knowledge exchange and crop progression lead at the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO).
Dr Bowen says: “It is going in well – it is very dry of course. Growers are moving into some of their last fields on heavier land. We are getting some questions about rolling. If it is cloddy it is good to roll to get good seed-to-soil contact as there is pressure on moisture.
“Also look at drilling depth as the top two to three centimetres is dry. Consider going in a little deeper. This can be critical to seed contact with moisture.”
Norfolk grower Kit Papworth completed drilling in just six days, despite starting two days later than planned and says this year’s conditions were the best he has seen for many years.
He says: “We are three weeks ahead of last year and this is probably the best start to the season I can remember. The beet has gone in near on perfect.
“All our fertiliser has gone on and we are now praying for a bit of rain and this should prove the perfect start.”
Growing 200 hectares, this season Mr Papworth has reduced his sugar beet area by 10 per cent compared to last year due to a drop in price, which he says has led many other growers to do the same.
Aphids could be a particular problem this season following mild weather in recent weeks, according to Hutchinsons agronomist Darryl Shailes.
He says: “Growers and agronomists will need to be vigilant as soon as beet emerges and the aphids start migrating.”
Mr Shailes says it will be important to ensure crops get to the 12-leaf stage as quickly as possible and to follow BBRO aphid migration bulletins, making sure the timing of available insecticides is accurate to reduce the potential for virus infection.
Kevin Irlam Mowbray, area manager for Monosem precision drills, says, despite good drilling conditions, the forecast cold weather is a concern as crops need to get up and away from aphid attack as quickly as possible.
He says: “The main concern at the moment is aphids after losing neonicotinoids, but I do not think this will be a problem for a year or two, once the aphids build up. If we do not get any cold winters, it could be a worry.”
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 free draining.”
The undisturbed soil meant seed went into a moist bed in good conditions, with the remainder of the field being drilled under a minimum-tillage system after the plough was ditched in 2002, says Mr Ward.