According to Frontier agronomist Max Howlett, there’s a bewildering choice of biostimulant products available and it’s a case of sifting through them to find the good ones, with performance potential not necessarily reflected in their price.

“It’s in our interest to look out for the farmer and find the best products for them to use. There needs to be a margin over input cost to justify using a biostimulant. With that in mind, I’ve been working with sugar beet growers in Suffolk and looked at a couple of tramline trials in 2019.”

“The Interagro trials in sugar beet have shown good yield responses to Bridgeway so we needed to establish whether we were missing a trick.”

“One of the tramline trials was conducted over 0.76ha in a commercial crop of sugar beet near Stowmarket and was drip fed a reduced rate of Bridgeway (1.25 L/ha) throughout the rapid growth stages of the crop. Applications were made on 29th April (5 true leaves), 15th May (6-8 true leaves), 4th June (12 true leaves) and also on 18th June. Treatments were applied with insecticide for virus yellows control, manganese or as a sole application.”

“We used Soyl biomass imagery to monitor the canopy but didn’t detect any differences between treated and untreated tramlines, although these would most likely have been taking place underground in the roots.”

“Test digs in different parts of the field were conducted to just before lifting the field towards the end of September and revealed that that’s exactly where the Bridgeway was having an effect – on the biomass below ground. Both the yield and sugar content were markedly higher where Bridgeway had been applied when samples were processed by British Sugar.”

“The untreated sugar beet had a clean yield of 86.3 t/ha (adjusted 94.9 t/ha) with sugar of 17.5%, whereas the Bridgeway treated beet yielded 98.3 t/ha (adjusted 118.3 t/ha) with sugar at 18%. That’s a 23.4 t/ha increase in adjusted yield.”

Adjusted - Bridgeway increased Sugar Beet yield by +23.4 t/ha and increased margin over input cost by +£418/ha

Adjusted yield (t/ha) by sugar content as shown

2019. Commercial crop of Sugar Beet in Stowmarket. Sugar Beet at £20/t. MOIC based on Bridgeway £10/L.

Bridgeway increased sugars by 0.5% & clean yield by +14.7 t/ha

Effect of Bridgeway on yield (t/ha) & sugar content (%)

2019. Commercial crop of Sugar Beet in Stowmarket. Sugar Beet at £20/t. MOIC based on Bridgeway £10/L.

Growers need to be able see a benefit over the cost of using Bridgeway and sugar beet seems to be a standout crop in delivering this, with a consistent 0.5% increase in sugar as well as elevated yield. It was only the result of one trial in one season so Bridgeway still has to prove itself, but its enough to convince me that its worth taking a more extensive look at applying biostimulants in 2020.

Max Howlett, Agronomist, Frontier Agriculture Ltd