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Wilting beet conundrum

Sugar beet has been affected by recent hot weather, with crops on lighter soils showing signs of wilting.

 

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Hutchinsons root crop technical manager Darryl Shailes says: “This wilting is not confined to very light soils and needs some further investigation to find out what’s actually going on, as it may not be just drought.”

 

Flagging beet crops can often be a sign of beet cyst nematode (BCN) and the poor, stunted root systems cannot take up the water required and wilt earlier and for longer than in other parts of the field, says Mr Shailes.

 

Dr Mark Stevens of the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) says he has seen patches of yellowing and wilting associated with beet cyst nematode (BCN) and free-living nematodes at its plant clinic but this is localised and not widespread.

 

“Droughting can be a direct consequence of lack of water or BCN. Most of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire have had plenty of water but in some areas of north Norfolk there has been a lack of rain and there is some BCN and free living nematodes (FLN).

 

“This could relate to wet weather we had in June when the nematodes were higher in the water table, particularly FLN. Then, as water has subsided, the nematodes have moved away.”


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White cysts

 

White cysts can be seen on the roots of BCN affected plants, says Dr Stevens. “There is some yellowing of leaves and they are a bit droughty due to nematode attack.”

 

Where BCN is seen, Dr Stevens is advising growers to use tolerant varieties.

 

While there are reports of wilting in some areas, Frontier agronomist David Allison says he would not expect to see ‘an enormous amount’ this year because most areas have had wetter weather. “When there is enough rainfall, beet does not tend to wilt as much due to BCN as it has less impact because the crop is getting enough water.”

 

Growers with a BCN problem should be using tolerant varieties and on land where there is a significant problem, taking it out of the rotation, advises Mr Allison.

 

In general, he is optimistic about this year’s beet harvest, expecting it to be ‘big’.

 

According to the JRC MARS Bulletin, Crop monitoring in Europe, August 2019, the 2019 European sugar beet crop is estimated to be 4.9 per cent below the five-year average and the UK’s, 1.4 per cent above the five-year average.

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