Best practice in sugar beet production

The Innovation Centre at Norwich Research Park - 30 state-of-the-art office and laboratory units in a customised three-storey building

Dr Mark Stevens, lead scientist at the British Beet Research Organisation, discusses some of the research BBRO undertake to protect sugar beet crop from yellowing disease.

We are currently working on a five year project, having been awarded funding by Innovate UK. The objective is to develop host protection against the virus yellows complex in sugar beet.

Beet virus yellows is caused by a complex of three plant pathogenic viruses, which are transmitted by the peach potato aphid, causing a yellowing disease. It is a greater problem in the UK than elsewhere in Europe due to our maritime climate and the UK beet industry invests up to £7 million annually on insecticides for aphid control, without which virus yellows could cause losses of up to £10 million per annum.

Recent EU restrictions on the use of certain insecticide resistance in aphids across Europe threatens to significantly increase the instances of virus yellows in UK gorwn sugar beet, damaging the competitiveness of UK sugar beet in world markets.

Our aim is to identify and introgress 'broad spectrum' resistance of the virus yellows complex found in germplasm collections into elite sugar beet materials for future breeding programmes. We will also develop sugar beet hybrids tolerant to virus yellows and determine yield benefit for variety development. Again, this project is a prime example of our collaborative working ethos; two breeders, Syngenta and SESVanderHave are involved and we are also working with ADAS as a subcontractor.

Tomorrow... Commissioned research and strategic partnerships