A new industry partnership is helping UK sugar beet growers maintain their leading position by making the most of environmental conditions to increase their annual yield.
Funded by the Technology Strategy Board, the partnership brings together British Sugar, remote sensing specialists Rezatec and agribusiness consultants Rectory Farmhouse Ltd, with additional support from the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO). Together they’re working on a 12-month project to combine the industry crop model (called the ABSugar BEETGRO model) with additional factors such as Earth Observation (EO), environmental and in-situ farm datasets to improve the model’s predictive accuracy and increase beet growers’ harvestable yields. Funding and support from the Technology Strategy Board has been essential to allow the partnership to undertake the initiative effectively.
The improved sugar beet crop growth model will give growers an enhanced decision making system designed to help them manage environmental factors better and improve their yields. This would not only strengthen UK beet growing, but would also mean the model could be used internationally and even be applied to other crops.
The partnership is currently working with 20 beet growers in 40 fields with a range of soil types across the UK. Weather stations and soil sensing equipment is providing meteorological and environmental data for incorporation into the model and this will continue over the rest of the growing season.
Colm McKay, British Sugar’s Agriculture Director, said: “This is a great example of beet industry collaboration in a project that will help the UK maintain its world leadership in innovative sugar beet production and processing in the face of increased competition.“
“The Technology Strategy Board funding has been crucial at a time when food security and the need to manage land more effectively is an environmental and political necessity. Our improved yield production model will give growers a range of decision making options to help them become more efficient, more productive and more profitable,” he added.
Patrick Newton, Chief Executive Officer of Rezatec, said: “By aggregating and analysing large amounts of diverse data from satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and ground observations, Rezatec can deliver its environmental data products and services. Crop yield optimisation is one just of the many ways that we can provide economic benefit to the food industry.“
Roelof Kramer, Director at Rectory Farmhouse, said: “The increasing need to produce more food with the same or less resources requires smarter farming. Sustainable intensification of agriculture is best achieved through integrating and optimising the use of existing and new technologies. Rectory Farmhouse takes a holistic approach to farming and is proud to be the agribusiness consultancy provider in this sugar beet partnership.”