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British Sugar, NFU Sugar and BBRO collaborate on trials to widen seed pellet market

19 May 2020

Pellet types strip comparison trials

Homegrown sugar producer British Sugar, grower representatives NFU Sugar and the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) have collaborated on a trial programme which will, for the first time, provide growers with impartial information on all commercially available seed technologies in the market. The trials are being carried out independently by the BBRO and funded solely by the UK sugar beet industry.

The programme will assess a number of priming and pelleting treatments to understand their performance in UK conditions. The ultimate aim is to provide every grower, in the short and long term, with the best processed seed for their conditions and the knowledge to choose it.

The joint NFU-British Sugar Seed Working Group will look for three years of trial data before marketing any alternative pellet types on the annual sugar beet seed price list. Limited volumes of each pellet type in the trial will be available to growers in the meantime, to promote commercial uptake of new technology while it is being assessed.

There are six trial sites, spread across the UK’s sugar beet growing areas, and BBRO scientists will assess pellets for emergence speed, final emergence and crop yield. The BBRO will own the trial data, so will be able to publish results with transparency and without any commercial concerns.

The trials will promote competition and innovation in the UK seed market, and allow the joint Seed Working Group to ensure growers have access to the best seed technology for their conditions.

Technical seed lead for the NFU Sugar board, Mark Fletcher, said:

“The UK beet seed market underwent significant change for the 2020 crop, with the introduction of pellets from multiple providers for the first time through the NFU-British Sugar Seed Working Group seed list. This new trial programme will promote continued competition and innovation in the market.

“The Seed Working Group has an ambition to provide every UK grower, in the short and long term, with the best processed seed for their conditions, the knowledge to choose it, at the best price, supplied at the right time. This new trial is another step towards delivering that goal.”

Peter Watson, Agriculture Director at British Sugar, added:

“These trials are very welcome, and will enable us to offer the best possible options for seed pelleting to our growers. We all want to see the benefits of good crop emergence and high yields, and the data from the trials will help growers to pick the best varieties and seed pellet for their individual circumstances.

“This is just one of the ways we are working with our partners across the beet sugar industry to help growers to make informed choices, and to make it as straightforward as possible to do businesses with British Sugar.”   

Notes to editors:
  • The companies taking part in the trials are: Betaseed, Germains, KWS, MariboHilleshog, SESVanderHave, Strube, and SUET.
  • The trials will see pelleting companies invited to submit 200 units of each pellet type they want to be part of the trial, of which four units per pellet type have been drilled. The pellets will all have the same treatments applied, and the seed will be selected from varieties available on the BBRO’s Recommended List.
  • Pellets submitted to the trials must be available in commercial quantities of at least 200 unit bulks. 
  • The trials are fully funded by the BBRO (which in turn is funded 50% by British Sugar and 50% by sugar beet growers). An estimated £100,000 per annum is being invested in the trials.  
  • The Seed Working Group is a joint British Sugar and NFU Sugar body which negotiates and buys sugar beet seed for UK growers on a not-for-profit basis.
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