CONVISO® SMART provides bright future for sugar beet


England’s sugar beet growers have until 8th October to return their seed order forms for the 2021 crop and importantly, they must use this form to declare their area of CONVISO® SMART sugar beet.

With the Covid lockdown denying interested growers the opportunity to visit one of the four Conviso Smart demonstration crops that breeder KWS had organised, Farmers Guardian visited the grower for the Newark factory area to learn more about what the technology has to offer.

Alistair Bowring’s satisfaction with his crop of CONVISO® SMART sugar beet is evident from the moment you walk into the field, and with good reason.

It’s the best crop of sugar beet we have grown in many years, if not ever.

“It’s the best crop of sugar beet we have grown in many years, if not ever. Not only does it look great with full establishment across the field and excellent weed control, but control of weed beet has been such that it has completely opened our farm to sugar beet once again,” he says.

Such high praise does not come lightly, but it reflects the contribution Mr Bowring has attached to the CONVISO® SMART system in ensuring he can continue growing sugar beet at Assarts Farm, Warsop, Nottinghamshire.

In a season when many crops have been affected by either drought or virus, or both, Mr Bowring remains enthusiastic about sugar beet and its future. “We can live with virus, but not weed beet,” he says. “The all-round weed control delivered by CONVISO® ONE has been outstanding,” he adds.

For the past two years, Mr Bowring has being contemplating dropping sugar beet from the rotation, partly because of the burden of controlling weed beet in crop, but also because of the negative effects of tackling weed beet in the following crop. In some years, carrots follow sugar beet at Assarts Farm, but spraying for weed beet can check growth.

“Sencorex Flow (metribuzin) hammers the carrots, but if we can take the weed beet out in the CONVISO® crop then it could save us having to treat in the carrots which will be a significant boost.”

Ensuring that one form of weed beet is not exchanged for another however, led him to take the stewardship obligations seriously. From a 10-hectare field drilled in mid-March that then suffered two frosts he reckons to have pulled no more than 20 bolters. “We took bolter management seriously as we don’t want to find ourselves in the same position again in a few years’ time. All bolters were removed and burned.”

Improving control of weed beet may have been what captured his attention, but the simplicity of the CONVISO® system and the performance of the CONVISO® ONE (foramsulfuron + thiencarbazone) herbicide have since persuaded Mr Bowring that it warrants greater consideration.

“We’ve never had sugar beet looking this clean. All 44 hectares of the crop in 2021 will be CONVISO® SMART. Based on this season we will use a pre-emergence herbicide with CONVISO® ONE applied when the fat-hen reaches four true leaves,” he says.

“The overall performance of the CONVISO® ONE herbicide has been impressive, especially the residual element. It offered partial control of volunteer potatoes, but a follow-up application of Dow Shield (clopyralid) was required to achieve full control.”

Herbicide timing was a consideration given the desire to control both weed beet and fat-hen, but the results have proved reassuring.

“A split application would have provided reassurance, but a single application has the advantage of being able to time it for maximum effect according to your situation. From a resistance management perspective, a single application at a higher rate is preferable to a two, lower-rate sprays.”

While the crop looks promising, yield remains to be seen. “We have 44.5 hectares to support our contract tonnage of 3,400 tonnes which is equivalent to 76.4t/ha. Looking at how well the crop is doing we are expecting some ‘C beet’ simply based on how much better it looks compared with crops we have grown in the past,” says Mr Bowring.

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